February 7, 2021 10:38:44 pm
Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Ajit Pawar on Sunday hinted at a state budget with curtailed provisions, except for a few sectors, due to the Covid-19 pandemic-induced shortfall in revenue.
At a ‘Meet the Press’ programme organised by the Patrakar Club of Nagpur, Pawar said, “The state is likely to fall short of expected tax revenue by about Rs 75,000 crore due to the revenue deficit caused by pandemic-induced inactivity in both services and industrial sectors… The Centre has not released the Rs 25,000 crore GST share. Thus, the Rs 4.5 lakh crore state budget may be curtailed by about Rs 1 lakh crore.”
He added, “Rs 1.5 lakh crore has to compulsorily go towards salaries and pension of government employees. So, we may well be left with Rs 2 lakh crore. So, the budget may have constraints of allocations. But we will not cut provisions of certain departments like police, health, food and civil supplies, rehabilitation and PWD.”
Pawar clarified on the controversy over his advise to his colleagues to pause and think before making any statement about financial issues. On a question related to his reaction to Energy Minister Nitin Raut’s announcement about power bill waiver, Pawar said, “I only said that in the present circumstances with several constraints… everyone must say anything by properly assessing the financial implications of the announcement on the budget.” He added, “Finance Minister is always seen as the villain of the piece.”
Pawar added, “We have not cut the district planning committee funds and MLAs’ fund despite the Centre stopping the Rs 5 crore MP fund due to pandemic-induced constraint.”
On vaccination, Pawar said, “The Centre should bear the expenditure for corona vaccination. First it had said that it will come free for all citizens. Then it said it will cover three crore people, subsequently enhancing the figure to 30 crore.”
On whether the state government will reduce taxes on petrol and diesel for consumers’ benefit, Pawar said, “Centre had progressively increased prices of petrol, diesel and LPG despite crude oil prices dropping to historic lows. We will discuss the issue before taking a call. If I say anything about it here today, my colleagues will tear into me (mala fadun khatil).”
On the alleged controversial speech by Sharjeel Usmani at Elgaar Parishad 2021, Pawar said, “It was wrong to say what was said there. It was dangerous for the society and was completely unnecessary. There was a former High Court judge on the stage when the speech was made. The organisers and those on the stage should have prevented him from speaking further. We have instituted a probe and will take strict action if there was violation of any laws or Constitutional provisions.”
Asked if the government will refuse permission to hold the Elgaar Parishad next year, Pawar said, “We will tell them not to allow such speeches. Only then permission will be granted.”
Pawar ruled out any threat to the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state. Referring to “operation lotus” talk by BJP leaders, Pawar said, “There is no danger to the MVA government as long as Uddhav Thackeray, Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar are working in tandem.”
On the issue of Nagpur’s MIHAN project, Pawar said, “We will hold discussion on MIHAN with a view to complete the project. I will request Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to look into it.”
He also slammed the Centre for treating agitating farmers in Delhi with contempt. “They fixed nails on the roads to harass the farmers. Do you remember any time in the past when such a thing had happened? The Opposition leaders, including Supriya Sule, were barred from meeting the farmers. Is it wrong to meet the farmers? They wanted to raise the farmers’ issue in Parliament after hearing the farmers first. What was wrong in that,” Pawar asked.
The senior NCP leader also exuded confidence that the ruling alliance will have its way with election for Speaker’s post, which has fallen vacant after appointment of current incumbent Nana Patole as state Congress chief. “It is a common practice that the ruling parties choose someone belonging to their ideology. We have solid support of 170 members in the Assembly. So we will choose the person appropriately,” Pawar said.
On Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari not clearing the list of 12 nominations for Legislative Council, Pawar said, “He is occupying the highest Constitutional position. It is up to him to take whatever time he requires to sign the list.”
When pointed out that the government has threatened to move court if the Governor doesn’t clear the list, Pawar said, “Issuing a warning and actually moving the court are two different things.”
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