Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur Saturday presented a Rs 44,388-crore budget for financial year 2019-20, with the focus on the rural population, which constitutes 90 per cent of the state. With an eye on the Lok Sabha polls due this year, no new tax has been proposed in the budget, which saw an increase of 7 per cent from 2018-19 budget.
The Budget estimated the revenue receipts for 2019-20 at Rs 33,747 crore, while the revenue expenditure is likely to be Rs 36,089 crore, bringing the revenue deficit to Rs 2,342 crore.
The fiscal deficit for 2019-20 is estimated at Rs 7,352 crore which is 4.3 percent of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). While the net borrowing would be Rs 5,069 crore, it would be within the borrowing limits prescribed by the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act.
Presenting his second budget, the chief minister, who also holds the finance portfolio, announced 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions for the economically weaker sections of the general category. This is keeping in line with the announcement made by the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
Introducing 15 new schemes for various section, Thakur said that 28 schemes that were announced in the previous budget would continue this year. However, he did not inform the assembly about the progress, if any, on the 28 schemes announced in the 2018-19 Budget.
The 168-page proposed budget gives priority to the agriculture, horticulture, and allied sectors to supplement rural income. As per the state government data, 62 per cent of the state’s total work force is directly employed in the agriculture and horticulture sector. Also, 89.96 per cent of the state’s population lives in rural areas with agriculture and horticulture being essential means of earning livelihood.
Thakur said the budget earmarks an annual plan of Rs 7,100 crore that is focused on farm productivity, developing rural infrastructure, new sources of irrigation, flood control and social services.
Presenting the budget a few months before the Lok Sabha elections, he announced several schemes for farmers, including a Rs 150-crore Mukhya Mantri Nutan Polyhouse Pariyojna, higher budget outlay for anti-hail net, irrigation and flood control schemes, Mukhya Mantri Khumb Vikas Yojna, subsidy of up to Rs 25,000 on indigenous cow breeds and Rs 2 per litre increase in milk procurement price.
He said breeding farm for Sahiwal and Red Sindhi cows will be set up with a total cost of Rs 11 crore.
Thakur also announced reducing power tariff from 75 paise per unit to 50 paise for irrigation.
He also announced 50 per cent subsidy for installing barbed wire and chain link under the Mukhya Mantri Khet Sanrakshan Yojna.
Besides, Rs 11,000 per annum will be provided as annual Loktantra Prahari Samman Rashi to people who had been arrested during Emergency under the Maintenance of Internal Security (MISA) Act. The social security pension, which is proposed to be increased from Rs 750 to Rs 850 and from Rs 1,300 to Rs 1,500, would benefit more than 5 lakh people.
One additional LPG refill cylinder will be provided free of cost to the beneficiaries of Himachal Grihani Suvidha Yojna and Ujjwala Yojna. Two lakh families will benefit as a result in the next year.
To curb illegal drug trafficking and smuggling of forest products, a Command and Control Centre would be set up in the state. ‘Yuva Navjeevan Board’ will be formed under the chief minister to tackle trafficking and consumption of narcotics and rehabilitate addicted persons, he added.
Announcing a new Sahara scheme, he said financial assistance of Rs 2,000 per month would be given to patients suffering from grievous and debilitating conditions as such as Parkinson’s, cancer, paralysis, muscular dystrophy, haemophilia, thalassemia and renal failure.
Diet allowance of people infected with HIV-AIDS will be increased to Rs 1,500 per month.
Thakur also said a new tourism policy would be introduced and a Master Plan for promoting eco-tourism will be prepared. Helicopter taxi services will be launched to connect more towns. Pong Area Development Board will be constituted to develop the Pong dam, on river Beas in Kangra district, as a tourist destination. The government also plans on constructing a temple for Lord Shiva in Mandi district. The chief minister said hydel projects with an installed capacity of 500 MW will be commissioned.
After presenting the Budget, chief minister told the media that his government has “tried to give a good budget” to the state. The Opposition Congress, however, claimed that the budget was not development-centric, and was aimed at wooing the public before the Lok Sabha polls.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Mukesh Agnihotri said, “The BJP had promised to reduce the burden of debt on the state, but this budget clearly shows that we’ll be under more debt by next year. It looks like the budget has been planned keeping in mind the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, since it has only tried to woo various sectors, and has completely left out any development-related initiatives.”