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Saturday, July 31, 2021

West Bengal government announces road tax waiver for passenger transport, stamp duty rebate

Disaster management allocation rises 10-fold while Rs 16,368 crore granted to health department

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
July 8, 2021 5:01:30 am
State Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee during his budget speech at the Bengal Assembly in Kolkata on Wednesday. Chatterjee presented the budget as Finance Minister Amit Mitra was unwell. (Source: CMO)

The West Bengal government on Wednesday waived road tax on passenger transport vehicles and offered a rebate on stamp duty. Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee made the announcements while presenting the state budget of Rs 3.08 lakh crore for the 2021-’22 financial year. Finance Minister Amit Mitra could not present the Budget as he is unwell.

Praising Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the state government’s welfare measures, Chatterjee said, “While India’s GDP growth dipped to minus 7.7% in 2020-’21, Bengal’s GDP clocked a positive 1.2 per cent growth from 11.3 per cent. The state has also successfully controlled all fiscal parameters such as fiscal deficit in spite of severe financial hardships in the last one year caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and cyclones Amphan and Yaas.”

Chatterjee said the government had decided to extend the one-time exemption of motor vehicle tax between July 1 and December 31. The government also proposed to reduce by two per cent the stamp duty for registration of deeds, while the circle rate was slashed by 10 per cent. Both facilities can be accessed only if the registration process is completed by October 30.

The minister said the state had fully provided for debt servicing in its budget. He claimed that the debt to GSDP ratio for West Bengal at 35.54 per cent was far lower than the Centre’s debt to GDP ratio.

However, the budget also pushed up the state’s annual budgeted borrowing when compared to last year’s actuals by over 23 per cent to a record Rs 1,15,819 crore, according to a financial statement given at the end of the budget.

“Our state’s economy has grown steadily in the last 10 years. The gross state domestic product (GSDP), which was Rs 4,60,959 crore in 2010-’11, has increased to Rs. 13, 54,518 crore in 2019-’20, a 2.94 times increase… Expenditure in the social sector increased 10.11 times between 2010-11 and 2020-21. Similarly, in the agriculture and allied service sectors, the increase was 10.5 times and in the physical infrastructure sector it was 5.58 times,” Chatterjee said in his speech.

The state government increased outlays in many sectors. The departments that saw a sharp spike in allocation were Health, Home and Hill Affairs, Disaster Management, Education and Women and Child Development.

The Home and Hill Department allocation was nine times more at Rs 11,939 crore in 2021-’22, compared to Rs 1,299 crore the previous year. Disaster management allocation jumped to Rs 2,105 crore compared to mere Rs 215 crore in 2020-’21, representing a 10-fold jump. The Bengal government also increased the health allocation by more than 400 per cent to Rs 16,368 crore to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. In the previous budget, Rs 4,608 crore was allocated for health.

Allocation for the food and supplies department expanded around 50 per cent to Rs 12,293 crore while the backward class department’s budget allocation was Rs 2,172 crore, which is nearly two and half times more than that of the previous year’s budget. The minority affairs department, too, received a healthy rise to Rs 4,777 crore.

The higher education department has been allocated Rs 5,143 crore during the fiscal as against Rs 700 crore in the previous budget allocation. The transport department has also been enriched with a higher allocation of nearly 100 per cent at Rs 1,737 crore. In the last financial year, it had been allocated Rs 985 crore.

The government’s revenue expenditure has gone up from a little over Rs 1.8 lakh crore to over Rs 2.13 lakh crore because of spending on new schemes. In February, Mamata Banerjee had placed the vote-on-account in the House, during which 26 schemes and projects were announced.

Talking about the student credit card scheme, launched on June 30, Chatterjee said an interest rate of four per cent would be charged while the rest would be borne by the government as subvention. No collateral would be required for accessing the benefits of the scheme, and the loan amount would be fully insured and state-guaranteed, the minister added.

Chatterjee told the House that the state government would soon launch the West Bengal basic income scheme, christened “Lakshmir Bhandar [Lakshmi’s Gift]” to support a woman member of every household. The government would transfer the money directly to their bank accounts, said the minister.

Chatterjee noted that farmers had started receiving the benefits of the Krishak Bandhu scheme. He added that the government’s “Duare Ration [Ration at the doorstep]” scheme, under which food grains are delivered to households, would be scaled up in days to come.

The government said it was optimistic about creating 15 million new job opportunities in five years as committed in the interim budget presented on February 5.

In an online press conference after the budget was tabled, Amit Mitra said, “We have always focused on giving more money to common people so that demand is stimulated. This will boost industries. The whole world is focusing on macroeconomics. The Centre’s policy, on the
other hand, is to offer loans and reduce corporate tax. What has this achieved?”

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