The Congress and NCP government in Maharashtra is busy offering a slew of concessions to its voters, each decided in a cabinet meeting, of which there have been so many lately
The Congress and NCP government in Maharashtra is busy offering a slew of concessions to its voters, each decided in a cabinet meeting, of which there have been so many lately. The list of concessions is long, and frankly, appears absurd, when seen in context of the Rs 2.92 lakh crore debt weighing on the state, and the 20 per cent cut applied to the annual development plan for the current year.
While it is obvious that the concessions are aimed at appeasing the electorate in election year, what is hard to swallow is the fact that these are sops that have very little hope of ever actually materialising. The state has not made any financial provisions that would act as first steps towards realising the promises made. In their desperation to woo voters, the state government is turning a blind eye towards observations made by its finance department.
Not mincing its words, the finance department has said in no uncertain terms that the state will have to opt for huge open market borrowings if it wants to fulfill all the plans it has approved of, in recent times. The political leadership, meanwhile, maintains a stony silence on the huge disparity between the promises made and their actual feasibility.
Recently, when the food and civil supplies department demanded funds to purchase food grains from the open
market to cater to 1.77 crore people below the poverty line in the state who have been excluded from the Centre’s Food Security Scheme, the finance department simply rejected the request. The state may also be unable to meet the target of revenue collections set for the current financial year. In such a scenario, open market borrowings are inevitable, making the state coffers bleed.
Political gimmicks — promising to feed 1.77 crore people, raising hopes of a 20 per cent cut in power bills, offering financial aid to permanently non-aided educational institutions — all this may earn the state government some extra votes, but will make the state suffer, in the long run. Even the decision to allow tax concessions on certain items raises concerns, since the overall tax collection is expected to meet shortfall of Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 crore this year.
The precarious health of the state’s economy appears does not seem to be a matter of concern for Prithviraj Chavan or his team. But if they have any connection with reality, they will sit up and tighten their purse strings, elections