Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, February 28
Two months, eight pre-Budget consultation sessions and incorporating 70 per cent of over 250 suggestions -- Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s voluminous 68-page Budget, the first-ever he presented as state’s Finance Minister, carried the “common man” flavour he wanted to deliver with a little in it for everybody.
Starting from setting up 4,000 playways to being committed to providing better health facilities, including MRIs, cath labs, dialysis, chemotherapy, online testing and health cards, in all district hospitals, Khattar also promised life insurance to the tune of Rs 6,000 to families under the Pariwar Pehchaan Patra under the Mukhya Manti Parivar Samridhi Yojna (MMPSY) and higher scholarships to meritorious schoolchildren among others.
Though the Budget unveiled nothing “big and spectacular” for the state, it is bound to touch the lives of the common man in the smallest of ways and the CM is satisfied with the way his efforts have fanned out to lend inclusiveness to every section of society through the budgeting exercise.
“Our top three initiatives include life insurance under the MMPSY as it will benefit the society at large, opening of playways since the children in the specific age bracket are considered big for anganwadis and young for schools, and better facilities in all district hospitals to ease the pressure of treatment for the common man. All these initiatives are close to my heart,” he said.
Holding the portfolio of the Finance Minister, Khattar got a freehand to decide allocations to various sectors and schemes. “My priority, while drafting the Budget, was education, health, security and self-reliance. We even managed to incorporate suggestions from the pre-Budget sessions. In fact, I even kept mentioning the names of legislators whose suggestions I incorporated in the Budget,” the CM said.
Under the rationalisation exercise, Khattar explained that 132 schemes were merged to reduce these to 46, while 18 schemes found to be redundant were scrapped and 6 were merged in separate departments. “These schemes had been going on ever since they commenced. Some had been replaced by newer schemes while others had lost their relevance. We merged some and closed down others.
This will make additional staff associated with these schemes available in the respective departments and we will be able to manage our resources better in terms of what is really relevant for the public,” said the CM, accompanied by Principal Secretary Rajesh Khullar and Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) TVSN Prasad.
On rising debt of the state, Prasad said there was no reason to worry since this was well within the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management norms. “We are spending extensively on capital investment to fuel the GDP of the state. This will bring about development. If we stop taking loans, development will stop. So, deficit financing to sustain growth is not bad when these borrowings are within limits,” he added.
Prasad said though the Centre had recently written to the state government, allowing borrowings just over three percent, the latter chose to restrict it to 2.73 per cent to maintain fiscal prudence.
Khattar, however, said money spent would no longer be a barometer for the success of a scheme or a measure of the performance of any department. “We want result-oriented indicators to decide the success of a programme,” he added.