Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday announced several new policies and initiatives, laying the ground for the remainder of his tenure. He tabled a populist Budget covering most sectors and demography of the state with a fiscal deficit estimated at Rs 32,678.34 crore, which is 3.19 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP).
Presenting his government’s maiden Budget – following February’s Vote on Account/interim budget on account of impending Lok Sabha polls – Gehlot began by recalling Gandhian principles, with the nation currently celebrating his 150th birth anniversary, and announced Rs 50 crore Mahatma Gandhi Institute in Jaipur which will also house a Gandhi Museum. No new tax has been imposed and instead, a relief of about Rs 301 crore in taxes has been provided, according to Gehlot.
Among the sectors, Gehlot spoke on agriculture first, implying his government’s priorities, announcing a Rs 1,000 crore Farmer Welfare Fund which will aim at ‘Ease of Doing Farming’. This fund will be employed towards ensuring “reasonable” prices to farmers for their produce. He also announced ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ with Rs 10 crore, where initially, 20,000 farmers across 36 Gram Panchayats will be trained in traditional means of irrigation and growing natural manure. He also announced that his government aims to disburse short term loans worth Rs 16,000 crore through Central Cooperative Banks in the 2019-20.
The government also increased Gaupalan Department’s budget by 145 per cent and efforts will be made to provide assistance to gaushalas via CSR funds and public participation.
In his press conference after tabling the budget, Gehlot said that “women, youth and farmers” are his government’s priority and that he made party’s manifesto for 2018 Assembly polls as the basis for his budget announcements and towards “good governance.”
For women, Gehlot announced an outlay of Rs 1,000 crore under the new ‘Priyadarshini Indira Gandhi Mahila Shakti Nidhi’ for their “empowerment” through their training, education, awareness, etc. The CM also increased wages to Aanganwadi workers, announced a Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Children’s Literature Academy as well as Rajiv Gandhi Jal Sanchay Yojana, the latter for water collection and conservation.
For youths, Gehlot announced the CM Youth Employment Scheme where youths will be given loans up to Rs 1 lakh through various government agencies. Over five years, the government aims to spend Rs 1,000 crores and benefit 25,000 youths in the current financial year. Gehlot also said that 75,000 government vacancies will be filled this year. Gehlot also announced a Youth Motivation Programme and Higher Education Scholarship Scheme.
Among other announcements, Gehlot announced that electricity wiring in religious towns of Nathdwara and Ajmer will be shifted underground.
Gehlot also announced that about 22,831 hectares, currently water logged, will be made farming friendly with Rs 207 crore. “This will also make it possible to stop our water going into Pakistan,” he said.
He also announced an Integrated Industrial Zone in Pachpadra, Barmer, to complement the Barmer Refinery, for which the work is scheduled to be completed by 2022.
With Jaipur’s walled city being added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List recently, Gehlot said that a vehicle-free zone will be created in the old city to enable a heritage walk. Gehlot also announced a centre in Jaipur along the lines of India International Centre, New Delhi, as well as converting Jaipur’s Sawai Man Singh Town hall into ‘Rajasthan Heritage Museum’. He also announced a Rajasthani Literature Festival in Jaipur, reserving Rs 2 crore for it in the current financial year.
Apparently taking inspiration from AAP government’s Mohalla Clinics in Delhi, Gehlot announced Janta Clinics, which will be opened on land donated by philanthropists. The number of medicines under CM’s Free Medicine Scheme has also been increased to 712 from 608, and number of free tests has been increased from 70 to 90. Also, the scheme of free C T scans for BPL families and senior citizens, currently in place at Jaipur’s SMS hospital, will be implemented across the state.
Gehlot also announced that Jaipur will be made “beggar-free” and that The Rajasthan Rehabilitation of Beggars or Indigents Act, 2012, will be implemented by his government, accusing the previous Raje government of ignoring it.
An expenditure of Rs 10 crore is also proposed for modernising madrasas in the state. Taking inspiration from Asian Games and National Games, Gehlot announced State Games for Rajasthan.
He also announced a Rajasthan Jan Aadhaar Yojana which aims at ‘one number – one card – one identity’ for Rajasthan citizens. He, however, did not elaborate on the scheme and said that a committee for its execution will be constituted.
Stating that the entire world is “worried” about climate change, Gehlot announced the formulation of a Climate Change Policy and reconstitution of state’s Environment Department as Directorate of Environment and Climate Change. He also announced restarting of pension for senior journalists.
Among other measures, Gehlot said that he will bring in Public Accountability Law, constitute an Economic Transformation Council, and formulate Rajasthan Investment Promotion Scheme, and bring in a Food Processing Policy, Business and Export Promotion Policy, the Rajasthan Manufactured Sand Policy, the Electric Vehicle Policy, the Silicosis Policy, and a new Education Policy, among others.
The Rajasthan Mining Policy, 2015, will be reviewed, while the Solar Energy Policy and Rajasthan Wind Policy will be merged to bring in a new Solar and Wind Energy Policy.
In his post-Budget speech, he said that since it is his government’s first year, he has aimed to lay the grounds for “complete development” and a “strong Rajasthan” through this Budget.