Tribune News Service
Shimla, March 6
The shadow of COVID was more than evident on the budget proposals for the financial year 2021-22 as Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur presented a tax-free budget of Rs 50,192 crore on Saturday, with only marginal relief to various sections even as he termed it as women welfare and social security-oriented budget.
While admitting that COVID had resulted in an extremely difficult fiscal situation, Thakur who also holds the finance portfolio said an attempt had been made to create employment opportunities and strengthen the health and education sectors. “Our financial position remains a cause of concern with the debt trap touching Rs 60,500 crores and as such several steps have been initiated for the revival of the economy, which is beginning to gradually look up,” said Thakur.
There has been a mere increase of a little over two per cent in this year’s budget over last year’s budget of Rs 49,131. With huge liability on account of salaries, pensions and loan repayment, a mere Rs 43.94 out of every Rs 100 would be spent on development works. The revenue receipts are estimated at Rs 37,028 crore while revenue expenditure has been pegged at Rs 38,491 crores.
The total revenue deficit has been estimated to be Rs 1,463 crore while the fiscal deficit is projected at Rs 7,789 crore, which is 4.5 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). “As of now there is no proposal to reduce VAT on petrol-diesel to provide relief to people,” CM said in response to a query.
The budgetary allocation for the core health sector has witnessed an increase of 11 per cent to Rs 3,016 crore to meet the new challenges thrown up by coronavirus pandemic. The government has decided to not deduct 30 per salary of CM, ministers and MLA, which was a COVID cut, and the MLA Area development Fund has been restored and enhanced from RS 1.75 crore to Rs 1.80 crore. As far as employment generation is concerned, 30,000 functional posts in various departments including Health, Education, Public Works and Police will be filled up, besides 7,000 jobs in the private sector.
The highlight of the budget was Swaran Jayanti Naari Sambhal Yojna where 60,000 women above the age of 65 years will be provided Rs 1,000 per month, Shagun scheme for girls child belonging to BPL category among SC, ST and OBC where Rs 31,000 will be given at the time of marriage. Two girls from BPL category were getting Rs 12,000 as post-birth grant, which has been enhanced to Rs 21,000. There will be 256 per cent reservation for women in recruitment for constables and sub-inspectors.
The social security pension cover will be extended to another 40,000 beneficiaries during this year which will incur an expenditure of Rs 60 crores. Honorarium of Anganwari workers has been enhanced by Rs 500 per month, mini Anganwari helpers by Rs 300, and Anganwari workers by Rs 300.
In the Education sector, there is a proposal to start Top 100 scholarship scheme, set up 100 Maths labs, provide coaching and career counselling in all government schools and start Him Darpan Shiksha Ekikrit Portal for making the education system more effective.
An outlay of Rs 4,520 crore has been made for the public works department to facilitate road expansion. In order to give a fillip to the tourism sector, it has been proposed to undertake 14 projects at a cost of Rs 218 crore besides promoting Lahaul Spiti as a major eco-tourism destination with activities like ice hockey, skiing, and skating.
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