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No new taxes in Punjab
* 100 cr for horticulture mission
* Royalty on non-ferrous minerals
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 20
Ignoring the appeal by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to cooperate, members of the Opposition, sporting black wrap-arounds with anti-government slogans painted on them, staged a walkout before finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal presented his maiden Budget in Punjab Vidhan Sabha today.

Taxation and financial proposals

* Change of land use (CLU) charges, presently imposed in the periphery of Chandigarh, to be extended throughout the state. It will generate Rs 210 crore per annum.

* The state to raise royalty on non-ferrous minerals - sand, gravel, boulder, etc - to raise Rs 200 crore annually.

* Taxes on daily draw of lotteries to be doubled to Rs 50,000 a day to generate an additional Rs 50 crore annually.

* Basic stamp duty rates will be reduced from 6 per cent to 5 per cent.

* Snuff (naswar), cottage industry products to be exempted from the payment of VAT; revenue loss Rs 12 lakh per annum.

The leader of Opposition Rajinder Kaur Bhattal wanted a zero hour for an assurance from the Chief Minister that the life and property of all, including followers of various deras, would remain safe and secure. The speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon turned down the demand saying on Budget day, rules do not permit a zero hour.

Though the Chief Minister intervened and offered that all issues that the Opposition wants to be discussed on the floor of the House would be permitted. He sought their cooperation saying that it was a solemn day and decorum of the House should be maintained.

Shouting slogans against the government, the entire Congress legislature party trooped out of the House thus leaving the new finance minister with empty Opposition benches to read out his budgetary proposals.

The minister did not levy any new tax, yet some of his resource mobilisation measures, including bringing the entire state under the ambit of ‘change of land use’ charges and enforcement of royalty on non-ferrous metals may affect the housing sector adversely. This may hit those hoping to construct houses in new private colonies.

It has also been decided to create a social security fund for weak and disadvantaged people. This will be funded through a 5 per cent cess on electricity duty and 3 per cent additional stamp duty on urban land transactions. The money so generated will also look after old age and other pensions, various scholarships to SC girls and boys and beneficiary schemes for disadvantaged people.

It has not been clarified whether these duties are over and above existing duties. Manpreet Badal, in an endeavour to cover every sector in his budgetary proposals, promised to stem downward trend in the economy, improve quality of public expenditure, provide world-class infrastructure besides augmenting power supply, health care and education delivery systems. His focus on diversification in agriculture and agro-processing were also reflected in the proposals.

The current financial year will close with a deficit of Rs 570.41 crore in a budget of Rs 29,890.36 crore.

Some of the initiatives, including those in improving the education system, both in schools and colleges, besides strengthening of health care delivery system in municipal corporation towns and improving infrastructure in Baba Farid University of Health Sciences and state-run medical and dental colleges were greeted with thumping of desks by the Treasury Benches.

Manpreet also announced setting up of de-addiction centres in existing civil hospitals and a state drug dependence treatment centre.

He announced a pilot project for diversification through agriculture maintaining that horticulture would continue to get special attention and Rs 100 crore would be spent during the current year on the national horticulture mission.

The government has also proposed to set up 20 farmer-training centres. It also intends to revive sick milk unions. Bhai Ghanaiya Saehat Seva Scheme for medical insurance up to Rs 2 lakh for members of the cooperative societies would be introduced from September 1 this year, 15 days after the subsidised atta and dal scheme for 13.25 lakh beneficiaries is introduced.

Energy is another area on which Manpreet Badal has laid special emphasis highlighting the need for increasing power generation. The government proposes to spend Rs 778 crore on strengthening of transmission and distribution system besides providing sufficient funds for renovation and modernisation of thermal plants at Ropar.

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