HP budget: Limits of populism

The Himachal Pradesh budget has crossed all limits of populism. Not only has essential ration been promised at highly subsidised prices, even opulent and wealthy sections have been extended largesse and hush money to keep them in good humour with an eye on the ensuing Assembly elections.

Apparently, the Shiromani Akali Dal’s success in Punjab elections by promising wheat for Rs 4 a kg and pulses for Rs 20 a kg during the campaigning might have influenced the Himachal Chief Minister to emulate it.

Those concerned with deficit budget over the years, the state’s net debt liability will have exceeded a whopping Rs 18,500 crore. The day is not far off when the state may have to pay back Rs 2 as interest on borrowing Re 1! What will be the fate of the common people if 37 per cent of the total budget is spent on salaries to government employees and pension to retirees, besides paying back 28 per cent interest on borrowings from different financial institutions and nearly 15 per cent on social security schemes?

How will Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh raise this staggering amount to validate his passionate fiscal management? If he has some magic wand, he should also help the cause of the Manmohan-Chidambaram-Montek league to improve the current muddled economic scenario.




In the Himachal budget, the government plans to spend Rs 7555.61 crore on various schemes. This is welcome. The employees are also happy that 5 per cent interim relief has been given to them. The equalisation of NPA of various Ayurvedic doctors is also welcome.

In the Education Department, the government will fill 7,800 posts, create 477 posts of Forest Rangers and Anganwadi workers. Concessions have also been announced for BPL ration card holders. On the whole, the Budget is people-friendly.



I don’t agree with the view that not enough trained and skilled manpower is available in Himachal Pradesh. For decades, 30-40 per cent population of Kangra valley (consisting of Una, Hamirpur, Palampur and Kangra) have been working outside the state. In Delhi alone, there are about 10 lakh Himachalis. If they were not skilled and talented, it would not have been possible for them to work there. In fact, the Himachali and Garhwali labour are generally preferred to other labour for skilled jobs.

But then, why shouldn’t they opt to work in Himachal Pradesh? The answer is the very low wage structure in Himachal. One gets Rs 2,100 a month in Himachal as against Rs 4,100 in Delhi. Even in Haryana, it has been raised to Rs 3,600 a month. In such circumstances, how do you expect Himachalis to work in Himachal?

Unfortunately, the Chief Minister has not addressed this issue in the Budget. While minimum wages need to be raised to Rs 4,000 a month, unemployment allowance should be given to all the educated unemployed youth.



The HP budget may be hailed as people-centric. It is not only tax free but also seeks to provide relief to the common man through the supply of essential commodities at subsidised rates. The announcement on filling 33,000 functional posts is good news. This would to some extent help jobless youth. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who also holds the finance portfolio, seems to have done a good job.

TARA CHAND, Ambota (Una)

Amritsar jinx

The news-item “Amritsar jinx persists” (Feb 28) was interesting. The Amritsar jinx is bound to continue as the next general elections are due in 2009 and Navjot Singh Sidhu wouldn’t be able to complete the term. By the way, the first non-Congress MP from Amritsar was Yagya Dutt Sharma, not as mentioned in the report.

K.J.S. AHLUWALIA, Amritsar


Tapping maritime potential

Union Shipping Minister T.R. Balu drew flak from the Left parties in Parliament on the Centre’s proposal to shift the country’s first maritime university from Chennai to Kolkata. National security demands a visionary approach and not the kind of unruly scenes witnessed in Parliament.

The Indian Army set up the Army Training Command based on the US Army’s TRYDOC. There has also been the Centre for Land Warfare, the Centre for Air Power and the National Maritime Foundation. Plans are afoot for a National Defence University on the lines of those in countries like China.

India has a large maritime front, but the absence of sea consciousness has put the country weak on the sea front. India has a vast maritime asset and it has been duly recognised that our sea area of influence extends from Aden to Malacca.

This gives us enough scope to deliberate on our sea dimensions. We should explore ways to have more universities of such specialised nature than fight over trivialities.

SHAVERI THAKUR, Defence Analyst, Panjab University Chandigarh 



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