Throwing fiscal prudence to the wind, the Uddhav Thackeray government on Monday raised additional grants worth Rs 24,723 crore to meet the projections of excess in expenditure for 2019-20.
According to the supplementary statement of expenditure, which was tabled by Maharashtra’s Finance Minister Ajit Pawar on the first day of the Budget Session of the state Assembly, just about nine per cent or Rs 2,232 crore of these have been set aside for public sector investment in capital works.
The rest of the expenditure, Rs 22,491 crore, proposed in the supplementary grants, is revenue expenditure, which is of non-developmental nature.
With the debt of the public exchequer mounting, the share of capital investment in the state’s Budget has been squeezed to 11 per cent of the total expenditure. Following the additional grants raised on Monday, officials admitted to the concern this share will dip further.
Almost immediately after taking over reins of the state last November, the Thackeray-led coalition government had accused the previous BJP regime of denting the credibility of the state’s budget by repeatedly presenting supplementary demands. But less than three months after it rode to power in the state, the coalition itself has raised supplementary grants worth Rs 40,843 crore, stoking concern over fiscal discipline and a further rise in deficit projections. The Thackeray government’s farm loan waiver scheme — Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Shetkari Karzmukti Yojana — makes up for about 60 per cent of the additional grants raised. With the rollout of the loan waiver commencing from Monday onwards, the government has set aside Rs 15,000 crore towards the expenditure in the current year. On December 27, Thackeray had announced a full loan waiver of agriculture crop loan availed between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2019, where the total arrears as on September-end stood at Rs 2 lakh or less. The government had earlier dipped into funds in the state’s Contingency Fund to foot the farm loan waiver Bill.
Thackeray’s own subsidised food canteen scheme — the Shivbhojan Yojana — is expected to cost another Rs 6.48 crore, while an additional Rs 2,000 crore has been provided towards concessions and subsidies offered to consumers for agricultural solar pumps and powerlooms. While earmarking Rs 245 crore for grant-in-aid to schools and colleges, the Thackeray government has also announced plans to launch a new scheme where gas connections would be given to the poor and needy families not covered under the Centre’s Ujjwala scheme. The government has also announced plans of setting up a forensic science laboratory dedicated to detection and prevention of rising crimes against women and children on social media.
An additional provision of Rs 150 crore has been made towards the Prime Minister Crop Insurance Scheme. In fact, a total amount of Rs 624 crore has been earmarked towards state’s share in various centrally-sponsored schemes. The government has also earmarked additional funds for concessions offered to fishermen (Rs 89 crore), and incentive grants allotted to urban local bodies. An additional amount of Rs 18 crore has been set aside towards financial assistance to farmer suicide affected families. In capital works, the government has pushed the Pune Metro rail projects, committing to an additional equity of Rs 103 crore and a subsidiary loan of another Rs 375 core, while earmarking Rs 1,715 crore for construction and improvement of state highways, major district roads, and other roads, and another Rs 189 crore for building and repairs of government residential buildings and rest houses.
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