Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, March 7
As Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal gets ready to announce sops in an election year, he will also have to explain to the Vidhan Sabha the rather poor per capita social sector expenditure during the past four years of the Congress rule.
Punjab’s per capita social sector spending is the fourth lowest among major states, with the government spending just Rs 6,981. Comparatively, the per capita income of neighbouring Haryana is Rs 13,233. Even the national average of per capita social sector expenditure of major states is Rs 8,962.
No wonder the focus of the Finance Minister in Monday’s Budget will be more on schemes for the uplift of socio-economically disadvantaged sections. On the cards is likely a scheme for assured buyback of some horticulture crops, an enhanced compensation for families of those farmers who commit suicide and those who have died in the ongoing farmers’ stir, self-employment schemes and enhanced social security pensions among others.
Data available with The Tribune from the Reserve Bank of India (State Finances: A Study of Budgets 2018-19) reveals that the state’s spending on social sector initiatives has come down by almost 50 per cent in the past four years. From Rs 48,270 crore spent on social sector initiatives in 2016-17 (though this was also an election year), the spending in 2019-20 came down to Rs 24,896.10 crore.
Other than this, the state government has not been able to perform well in its flagship welfare scheme for farmers — the Crop Loan Waiver Scheme — the atta-dal scheme has been reduced to just providing wheat as dal has not been provided for the past many years and sugar and tea leaves (as promised) have not been distributed.
Another RBI report, which has analysed the farm loan waiver schemes of different states, shows that Punjab has so far waived just 46 per cent of the amount announced. The total institutional debt of the state is Rs 57,332 crore and the non-institutional loan is Rs 24,652.76 crore. Only the institutional loan has been waived. Comparatively, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have waived more than 70 per cent of the farmers’ loans.
Dr Parmod Kumar, an economist, says the development of the state should be measured in terms of the social security net that it provides to the people. “Spending on the social sector has been reducing. This does not bode well for a welfare state,” he says.
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