Deficit in Budget but FM says Maharashtra's finances much better
Focus on creating jobs, working on vote-bank and boosting the agriculture sector ahead of the Assembly polls in October
With an eye on the Assembly elections in October, Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar announced new schemes and boosted the existing ones even as he presented a deficit budget on Tuesday. Though an estimated revenue deficit of Rs 20,292.94 crore showed a downward economic trend, the minister said the deficit would no longer be there once the revised figures come in later this year. He said the BJP government had achieved a growth of Rs10 lakh crore in the state’s income over the last five years.
Current total debt is Rs 4.11 lakh crore, which is expected to be Rs 4,71,642 lakh crore by March 2020. However, the minister said their debt management was much better than the previous regimes. "Last year we had projected the need of Rs 54,000 crore, but we ensured that only Rs 11,000 crore was taken as loan. This shows our financial management skills," he said.
Mungantiwar added, "We're doing much better than the Opposition. We have recovered the state's financial health, which was like a bankrupt institution in 2014. We have invested and people have benefited."
Focus on jobs
The Budget has taken into consideration the lack of job creation, for which the BJP government was blamed during the Lok Sabha poll campaign. A new scheme, Chief Minister Employment Generation Programme, has been devised under the new industrial policy. Micro, small and medium enterprises will be given a boost through 50 industrial parks to be built at the taluka level.
Working for vote-bank
Apart from allotting Rs 1,000 crore in the Budget, the Dhangar community, which has been demanding quota in jobs and education, has been given 22 schemes. Scheduled castes will be wooed through centenary celebrations of a Dalit ideologue late Annabhu Sathe. Other backward classes (OBC) girl students will get a scholarship scheme. An award has also been instituted for meritorious OBC students in Std X and XII.
Widow pension (social assistance under Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar and Shravanbal Yojana) has been doubled and the distribution of money to 36 lakh beneficiaries will start by July 1, at least three months before the Assembly polls. A total of Rs200 crore has been allocated for self-employment of widows, destitute and divorced women. Divyang (disabled) will also get houses. Youth and women from minority communities will get Rs100 crore and Rs500 crore will be given to Maoist-affected areas for creating jobs.
With an aim to achieve the goal of a trillion dollar economy, now-defunct Maharashtra Economic Development Council would be revived for charting out a road map. One of the dream projects under the scheme of developing memorials and monuments would come up in the memory of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Mungantiwar said the site for the memorial would be identified soon and budgetary allocation decided on.
Measures for farming
To give a boost to the farming sector and to fulfill the state’s drinking water needs, Rs 12,597 crore has been allocated for the water resources department. Farmers will get more money for micro irrigation. Special assistance has been announced for the farmers in drought-hit areas. About 5.5 crore farmers have been brought under the accident insurance scheme. Crop insurance and power bill subsidy on farm electricity connections will continue.
In an effort that would encourage research in agriculture universities, a grant of R600 crore has been allotted. Mungantiwar said the need was to increase farm produce in rain-fed areas and the only way out was to change cropping pattern and create crop varieties through research.
The government plans to create cluster forests under a scheme called Atal Anandvan. Large and small plots will be used for thick plantation so that these forests help create an environmental balance in urban and rural areas.
Budget leaked: Oppn
The Opposition in both the Houses staged walk-outs alleging that the Budget was leaked before the minister gave his speech. Congress group leader Vijay Wadettiwar said the minister's official Twitter handle had started releasing speech pointers in advance, and questioned how the minister’s social media team created 'memes' so quickly.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the first pointer was released 16 minutes after the minister started his speech. "It's a real-time transmission that created confusion in the Opposition camp. It is not that the Opposition does not know this, but they want to create a controversy out of nothing because they don’t have any other issue to bank on in this session. Hasn’t the Opposition used social media? Yes, they did very effectively for defaming us. We are using it for transmitting real information." Mungantiwar rubbished the allegations, saying his team was an expert and could create 'memes' in no time.
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