The delayed monsoon may have made them anxious, but farmers in Madhya Pradesh had a lot to cheer about on Tuesday with the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government earmarking nearly one-fifth of its budget for 2014-15 to agriculture and allied sectors, and removed VAT on 34 power-driven agriculture equipment like harvester and cultivator.
Presenting his first budget, Finance Minister Jayant Malaiya proposed no new taxes and removed tax on items like bells, gongs, gods and goddesses (excluding those made from gold and silver and other precious metals) and tridents, insisting that there had been demands from traders to do so. The previous budgets had exempted cow-urine and products made from it, camphor, sacred thread, kripan and religious photographs among other things.
Agriculture got the top billing with a substantial rise in the allocation from Rs 16,355 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 22,413 crore, or 19.15 per cent, of the total proposed expenditure of Rs 1,17,040.99 crore in 2014-15.
MP has taken rapid strides in agriculture in recent years and won two central awards, the finance minister noted in his speech while announcing a bonus of Rs 150 per quintal on maize to add to wheat and paddy that get similar bonus. The budget allocates Rs 1,050 crore for payment of bonus alone while increasing the allocation for crop insurance scheme from Rs 48 crore in 2013-14 to a whopping Rs 900 crore.
The government claimed that cooperative banks provided interest-free loan to the tune of Rs 12,450 crore to 28 lakh farmers in 2013-14 and hoped to take the loan volume to Rs 15,000 crore with 34 lakh beneficiaries in 2014-14. Malaiya has earmarked Rs 421 crore for compensating the interest subsidy to cooperative banks.
Mentioning the increase in irrigation facilities in recent years in the state, Malaiya said the government’s target for 2018-end is 35 lakh hectares. He proposed an expenditure of Rs 5714 crore on various irrigation schemes.
He said as many as 1.80 lakh benefited from the Chief Minister’s pilgrimage scheme, under which senior citizens visit religious places at government expense, while making a provision of Rs 80 crore for one of the many populist schemes introduced by Chouhan.
The government has decided to start Light Metro Rail for Indore and Bhopal under Mass Rapid Transport System and has sanctioned feasibility survey for metro rail project in Jabalpur.
Admitting that MP has to go some distance when it comes to maternal mortality, infant mortality and fertility rates, Malaiya said there had been improvement in last two years in these indices. He said the proposed expenditure for public health services was Rs 4828 crore, an increase of 55 per cent over 2013-14.
The Congress slammed the budget saying it took no steps to bring down inflation and unemployment. It said the budget does not make any provision to stem the decline in industrial growth rate.