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Updated: Mar 07, 2020, 07:49 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Aaditya Thackeray's tourism department to develop Rs 1,000 crore international centre at Worli Dairyland

Finance Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray at Vidhan Bhavan on the 8th day of the ongoing Budget Session on Friday. Pic/ Suresh Karkera
Finance Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray at Vidhan Bhavan on the 8th day of the ongoing Budget Session on Friday. Pic/ Suresh Karkera

Left with very few revenue-boosting options, Maharashtra's Finance Minister Ajit Pawar has chosen to tax the sale of petrol and diesel by Rs 1 per litre, in addition to the existing value-added tax (VAT). Pawar said the amount collected through the 'cess' would be used to create a dedicated 'Green Fund' for implementing environmental projects in the wake of climate change and global warming.

On the other hand, Pawar offered good news to prospective homebuyers in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, Pimpri, Chinchwad and Nagpur by relaxing stamp duty by 1 per cent for the next two years while power consumers were given a concession with a reduction in electricity duty in order to reduce their monthly bills.

He made the announcements during the Maha Vikas Aghadi's (MVA) first and slowdown-affected budget on Friday, which were also MVA's 100 days in office.

What emerged noteworthy from the Rs 9,511 crore deficit budget was a grand allocation for the tourism department headed by Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray. The tourism allocation is in multiple of the previous provisions (Rs 1,400 crore).

Aaditya has ensured Rs 1,000 crore tourism project in his Worli constituency — international standard tourist complex to be built on the 14 acres land of Worli Dairy, lying defunct for years. The Singapore-like project will have a world-class aquarium.

To attract more domestic and international tourists, an outlay of Rs 100 crore was given for various tourism development works this year. The city will get R500 crore over the next five years which will see development of Haji Ali and viability gap funding formulation for promoting coastal tourism on the lines of the Central scheme. Tourism diploma and degree courses will be started to provide a skilled workforce. There is a comprehensive plan to develop tourist destinations such as marine forts, hilly forts, waterfalls, beaches and hill stations.

"While the state exchequer will take a hit of Rs 700 crore in electricity duty reduction, Rs 1,800 crore will be lost in stamp duty concession," Pawar said.

The Green Fund is expected to collect Rs 1,800 crore annually and will be used by Aaditya-led environment department for sewage disposal and waste management. The Konkan coastal road, which is supplementary to the state's coastal tourism, will be given another R3,500 crore.

Blaming the deficit on the Centre for decreasing a share of central taxes by R8,453 crore and delay in getting the GST compensation from the Union Government, Pawar said, "As a result, timely funding the expenditure on development works in the state is becoming difficult."

The budget books showed that the capital expenditure of the state has reduced to 10.40 per cent of the total outlay which is less than the past. Another worrying factor is that the debt burden is expected to cross R5 lakh this fiscal and income is also expected to reduce while the expenditure of salaries, pension and establishment would continue to eat into the major portion of the state income, leaving a little scope for asset creation and development works.

"The size of the annual plan is proposed at Rs 1,15,000 crore out of which R9,668 crore are assigned for the Scheduled Caste (SC) sub-plan and Rs 8,853 have been earmarked for the tribal area sub-plan. The revenue expenditure in 2020-21 is expected to be Rs 9,511 crore more. The next fiscal promises to be as complicated and challenging as the previous year in view of the economic slowdown and adversaries like Coronavirus that has affected the economy badly," Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader in the Assembly Devendra Fadnavis said the budget has ignored backward areas of Vidarbha, Marathwada and North Maharashtra. He said many schemes that were started during his regime were either tweaked or given short shrift in the allocation of funds. "This government has a prejudiced view of the backward regions. They want everything for their own areas. It seems this budget is only for two districts — Pune and Mumbai," he said.

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