Making provisions to implement its populist schemes,the BJP Government in Chhattisgarh on Monday presented its budget for fiscal 2008-09,increasing its social sector outlay to Rs 9,991 crore,proposing no fresh taxes,and justifying these measures with the argument that the current economic slowdown has hit the poor the hardest. Presenting the budget that showed gross fiscal deficit at an estimated Rs 2,564 crore,Chief Minister Raman Singh announced various pro-stimulus packages,proposed in the partys manifesto during the recent Assembly polls.
To combat Naxalite violence,Singh said the budget for police department has been increased by 22 per cent to Rs 941 crore with special focus on security related infrastructure needs in the worst affected districts of Dantewada and Bijapur.
Restructuring the Chief Ministers Food Assistance Programme,he said distribution of rice at Rs 1 per kg to seven lakh antodaya families (the poorest of the poor),rice at Rs 2 per kg to 30 lakh families,and free iodised salt to the BPL families will cost Rs 1,458 crore. Provision of Rs 840 crore has been made for a bonus at the rate of Rs 270 per quintal in paddy being procured from the farmers under the support price scheme. The CM said Rs 46 crore has been earmarked for providing short-term agricultural credit at a nominal interest rate of 3 per cent. A subsidy provision of Rs 100 crore for free electricity for agriculture pumps up to five horse power capacity and Rs 1,000 crore for implementing the recommendation of sixth pay commission for government employees has been also made in the budget.
Opposition Congress,however,described the budget as pedestrian,saying the BJP Governments populism had left its impact on the budget,which did not contain any measures to mop up revenue.