Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel on Tuesday presented the state government’s modified budget of Rs 2.04 lakh crore with surplus of Rs 572 crore that emphasised on water management and conservation, green energy, farmers and raising and educating of the girl child. In the budget which is devoid of any major populist scheme, Patel who also holds the finance portfolio has also introduced hike on certain taxes which is likely to increase the state’s revenue income by Rs 287 crore.
In February, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Gujarat government presented a vote-on-account with surplus estimates of Rs 12,241 crore without any new tax proposals. Presenting the modified budget Tuesday, Patel said that it was for the first time that the state’s budget was crossing Rs 2 lakh crore mark. “…the budget I am presenting today is, for the first time after the creation of the state of more than 2 lakh crore…We are all part of this historic occasion,” Patel said.
Patel said that the budget has special focus on green and clean energy and accordingly, long-term planning has been put in place. He said the state government is planning to increase the current capacity of 8885 Mega Watt (MW) to produce renewable energy to 30,000 MW by the year 2022. “Out of this, 20,000 MW will be used in Gujarat and 10,000 MW electricity will be made available to other states,” Patel said.
Patel declared a significant change to the current Solar Rooftop policy whereby, the surplus energy of a household will be bought by the state at rates which will be decided subsequently. Rs 1,000 crore have been earmarked for the scheme. So far, 50,000 people have availed of the scheme and the government is planning to take it to 2 lakh people.
Another green initiative in the budget is of disposing treated chemical effluents of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Jetpur in deep sea as per the directions of the Supreme Court, at a cost of Rs 2,275 crore.
In the area of drinking water, Patel said that the state government is planning to spend Rs 20,000 crore under the Nal se Jal scheme in next three years to ensure that no house is devoid of tap water. “For this purpose, a provision of Rs 4,500 cr has been made during the current year, which is 36% more compared to last year,” said Patel in his budget speech.
A budget of Rs 7,157 crore has been earmarked for the implementation of various projects to augment water resources. An amount of Rs 6,595 crore has been set aside for various components of Sardar Sarovar (Narmada) project like canal automation, land acquisition, maintenance of power house, construction of canals, pumping stations in Kutch and Saurashtra regions.
Comparing Gujarat government’s efforts in providing Narmada water to Saurashtra and North Gujarat through SAUNI and Sujalam Suflam Yojana with mythological character Bhagirath who helped river Ganga descend on earth, Patel said, “The way Bhagirath had brought water, our BJP government has brought water to Saurashtra…”
In an attempt to woo farmers, the government has declared that around 1.25 lakh farmers, whose applications seeking electricity connection are pending, will be provided electricity connection in the next one year. These connections will include those areas that have been marked as dark zones and where the ground water levels are alarmingly low. So far, farmers in the dark zones were getting electricity connection only if they consented to use drip irrigation system in farming. That condition has now been waived.
For the proper implementation of various farmers’ schemes in the state, 1,121 vacancies in the agriculture department will be filled up in the current year, he said.
For education, the state budget has made maximum allocation of Rs 30,045 crore that includes Rs 454 crore to build 5,000 new classrooms to benefit 1.5 lakh students. The Socio Economic Review 2018-19 tabled with the budget notes that while the number of educational institutions imparting primary education in the state rose, the number of pupils enrolled dropped. So against 45,055 institutions imparting primary education in 2017-18 as against 44,545 in 2016-17, the number of students enrolled in these schools were 88.57 lakh in 2017-18 as against 90.12 lakh in the previous year.
For promoting girl child’s education and to increase girls’ social and economic status, Gujarat government has declared a new scheme – Vahalee Deekaree Yojana. First two girl child among in a family will be eligible under the scheme. At the time of admission in Class I, the girl child will get assistance of Rs 4,000. At the time of entering Class IX, the girl will get Rs 6,000. And after attaining the age of 18, the girl will get assistance of Rs 1 lakh to help her for higher education or marriage. This assistance will be available to a family which has annual family income below Rs 2 lakh. Patel said that Rs 133 crore has been earmarked for the scheme.
The state budget also deployed significant resources for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of Housing for All by 2022. To build houses in rural areas, Rs 1,553 will be spent in the current year. Similarly, Rs 1,248 crore will be spent for building houses in urban areas.
In the field of employment, the budget is envisaging to create job opportunities for 60,000 youth through Employment Fairs. On the same lines, it is also planned to financially assist 50 lakh youths in establishing their own business through MUDRA Yojana.
During his budget speech, Deputy CM Nitin Patel announced a slew of provisions made for the tribal belt from Sabarkantha to Dangs and said all those areas were with the BJP. Referring to the schemes, Patel said, “…all that is for tribal and South Gujarat region, which is in our support. We are giving return gift to them and (trying to) give compensation…”