Seeking higher budgetary allocations for food security, education and agriculture, the Jagnyachya Hakkache Aandolan (JHA), a state-level network of people’s organisations and workers unions, has suggested that the state government mop up additional revenue through higher taxes on alcohol and greater collections from mining.
Presenting a ‘People’s Budget 2018-19’ ahead of the Maharashtra government’s anticipated budget estimates to be presented on March 8, the JHA sought budgetary provisions totalling Rs 14,699 crore for providing education on the lines of Kendriya Vidyalayas and to bring approximately 20 lakh out-of-school children into state schools. Besides, it has demanded sufficient funds for pre-primary and secondary education under the Right to Education law.
For food security, the organisations sought Rs 5,695 crore, to be able to supply 2 kg of dal, sugar and oil every month to all ration card holders and for re-inclusion of 1.77 crore people with saffron cards for APL families into the public distribution system. JHA demanded that the government decision to remove one or two-member families from Antodaya category be withdrawn.
For the agrarian community, the JHA demanded free electricity 16 hours a day, as available to farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, pension of Rs 5,000 for farmers, Rs 5,000 pre-cultivation subsidy to farmers and statutory powers to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, on the lines of the Election Commission of India.
Amit Narkar, executive director of the National Centre for Advocacy Studies, said that while the Maharashtra government claimed it focused on agriculture in the last budget, spending was only 51 per cent of allocation. “The farmers continue to be in distress and suicides continue. And the underspending is not only in agriculture but with all the departments. The state’s total expenditure is only 40 per cent of allocations,” said Narkar.
Ravi Duggal, country coordinator with International Budget Partnership, suggested several measures to increase the state’s revenue. “If Maharashtra generates revenue through alcohol like Tamil Nadu does, it would get Rs 29,316 crores additional revenue,” said Duggal, adding that better tax administration in collecting revenue locked in uncollected taxes, mainly VAT, would also help in mopping up better revenues.
Duggal further said the government should improve revenue collection from mining, by fixing rates as in Gujarat. “These measures would help in generating additional revenue of Rs 60,000 crore which will be sufficient to fill the deficit in allocations to social sectors,” he added.