The state government presented its additional budget for the year 2014-15 yesterday. It was presented by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar in the state assembly, and Minister of State for Finance Rajendra Mulak in the state council.

Though his deputy presented a revenue deficit budget, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan says the state economy is back on track
Though his deputy presented a revenue deficit budget, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan says the state economy is back on track

The budget offers more than 20 sops to the business community in the areas of taxation and returns (see box). The requirement to present an additional budget arose after the government was unable to present a complete one in February, and had to make do with an interim budget.

Hush-hush talk in the corridors of power confirms the ruling Congress-NCP government’s belief: It was the traders and the business community who dealt them a big blow in the recent Lok Sabha elections, leading to their crushing defeat.

Pawar presented a revenue deficit budget of Rs 4,103.3 crore, which pegs government expenditure at Rs 1.84 lakh crore while projecting revenue collection at Rs 1.8 lakh crore. Despite this, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan claimed state’s economy was back on track. Chavan’s statement goes against the facts presented by his own government, which has estimated that state debt will exceed R3 lakh crore by the end of the fiscal.

The concessions to traders are set to reduce the state’s collections by Rs 962 crore, said Pawar. In the name of effective tax collections the state says it has made some of the border check posts operational.

It says draft rules for implementation of check posts were being published, whereas such rules should have been published in the year 2005 itself, because the state incorporated this provision in Maharashtra Value Added Tax Act, 2002 which became operational from 2005. Also, such check posts should be operational on roads, railway and ports. But the budget speech is silent on this issue.

Helping farmers
The plan also proposes many measures to help the farming community, especially in light of the huge losses they suffered due to the recent hailstorm. “We have doubled the minimum assistance given to farmers,” the minister said, adding that the relief will be provided to farmers in areas hit by drought, unseasonal rains and hailstorms.

The government, he said, would pay electricity bills of the affected farmers for the January-June 2014 period. He added that it would also pay the interest on crop loans taken by the affected farmers, besides extending loan repayment till December 2014. The Deputy Chief Minister said no coercive action would be taken to recover the loans till then.

Reacting to this, Leader of Opposition in state assembly, Eknath Khadse, said the budget indicates that the Congress and its allies appear demoralised after their defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. “There is nothing new in the budget, and it reveals it was presented with a defeated mentality,” Khadse said.