Days before presenting his maiden budget, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Monday had a pre-Budget meeting with MLAs and sought their suggestions on various subjects, including agriculture and education, to incorporate them in the Budget. In the BJP-JJP coalition government, Khattar has kept the Finance Department portfolio with himself.
The Budget Session of the Haryana Assembly begins on February 20 and the three-day pre-budget meeting with MLAs in Panchkula is aimed at getting feedbacks and suggestions from them.
Prior to this, Khattar has already held meetings with MPs from the state, besides experts from various sectors, including service sector, real estate, industry, and agriculture. He also met farmers, women, entrepreneurs among others. The meet with legislators is the last one in the series.
Talking to reporters after meeting legislators in Panchkula, Khattar described the state government’s pre-budget consultations with different stakeholders “as a historical step in the democratic system of the country”. He said Haryana is probably is the first state in the country where the Budget is being finalized with participation of all On the occasion, MLAs from the ruling BJP and JJP besides those of the Congress and independents gave their suggestions on different topics including agriculture, animal husbandry, school education, higher education, skill development and technical education.
Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who held a meeting with his party legislators in the morning to firm up suggestions to be given, however, could not attend the meeting with Khattar as he had to rush to Nuh due to the death of former Haryana minister Chaudhary Khurshid Ahmed.
INLD’s lone MLA Abhay Singh Chautala rued that not more than two minutes were given to the MLAs to speak and put forth their suggestions, which he said defeated the purpose of the chief minister’s pre-budget meeting exercise.
Khattar said the MLAs have given their suggestions by rising above the party lines and he assured them that all their viable suggestions would be incorporated in the state Budget for 2020-21.
he also responded to concerns raised by Abhay Chautala, who dubbed the entire exercise as a “mere formality” saying suggestions were now being sought at the fag end.
Khattar assured that suggestions given by public representatives in six sessions during the three-day discussion would be given due importance in the upcoming budget. He exhorted the opposition parties not to politicise this issue. Khattar said he had also asked the MLAs to suggest the sources of revenue as well while recommending new schemes. He said in the last five years, the state government has worked to meet all basic requirements like food, shelter, clothing, water, electricity, education and security for the people of the state.
“As many as 38 MLAs gave 71 suggestions today.. this will be the people’s budget and I am happy to say this that all MLAs, irrespective of their party affiliations, gave good suggestions,” he said.
Chautala later told reporters that Haryana is primarily an agrarian state and legislators should have been given enough time on the topic. He saw slim chances of suggestions being incorporated in the budget and dubbed the entire exercise a “mere formality”.
“This exercise seems to be aimed at only ensuring newspaper headlines. If the government was keen in seeking our views, this exercise should have been conducted two months before the budget session. How will the officers who are giving final shape to the budget now incorporate so many suggestions at last minute,” he asked.
Khattar, however, said, “We had allotted five minutes to each MLA to speak. If the time limit is kept indefinite, in that case we may get to hear speeches while suggestions may not necessarily come. I don’t think barring one MLA (Abhay Chautala) anyone complained.”
Congress MLA Geeta Bhukkal, who was Education Minister in the previous Congress regime, said she was given extra 10 minutes to speak as the government sought suggestions from her in detail in the education sector.
Bhukkal said she pointed out to the government that as it was bound to implement the Fundamental Right to Education and impart education to children from class one to eight free of cost, the government should also start pre-nursery classes in government schools and open play schools. “On agriculture, my suggestion was that many women are engaged in this sector, therefore, a Mahila Kisan Cell should be set up,” she said.