Government

Rajasthan Budget Mum on Kisan Credit Card Loan Waiver, Hikes Cow Spending by 145%

The government's focus appears to be the localised redressal of problems in the health and education sectors. However, the Budget records no substantial increase in social spending.

Jaipur: The Congress government in Rajasthan presented its Budget for the financial year 2019-20 on Wednesday. Calling it “a people’s budget,” chief minister Ashok Gehlot said it was prepared after discussion with “all the sections of the society” and claimed that the government had tried its best to include the suggestions and sentiments of the people.

With a marginal increase in the outlay from the last financial year’s Rs 1,07,865.40 crore, the current total Budget estimate stands at Rs 1,16,735.96 crore. There has, more importantly, been a reduction in allotment for sectors such as irrigation and flood control, power, transport, industry, mining and scientific services.

The focus of the government appears to be localised redressal of problems in the health and education sectors, however the Budget records no substantial increase in social spending.

The state government has announced ‘Janta’ clinics across the state to provide free primary healthcare facilities, similar to the Mohalla clinics in Delhi. The medical and health sector has received an increment of Rs 670 crore this year — an amount which seems just adequate to launch this project. Aam Aadmi Party’s budget for Mohalla clinics in 2018-19 was Rs 375 crore.

Also read | Ashok Gehlot: The Magician in Rajasthan Congress

Cows

Keeping its promise on cow welfare, the Rajasthan government raised the budget of the Gopalan department by 145% and Rs 713.94 crore to it. Under the Bharatiya Janata Party, the department was last allotted Rs 291.20 crore.

To deal with the menace of stray cattle, the government has also called for the creation of ‘nandishalas’ or cow shelters in every gram panchayat. The previous BJP government had set aside Rs 50 lakh for the same. It had also assigned Rs 50 crore for the development of registered gaushalas or cow shelters in the last budget.

Agriculture

Even after the recent spate of farmer suicides in the state, the much-awaited announcement of the waiver of Kisan Credit Card (KCC) loans by commercial banks did not find place in the state Budget. However, the government has raised its target of short-term farm loan waivers from cooperative societies to Rs 16,000 crore. Out of this, Rs 9,513 crore has already been waived, the government announced.

A separate fund worth Rs 1,000 crore, called the Farmers’ Welfare Fund has been announced for “ease of doing farming.” The Congress, in its state election manifesto, had promised an alternative and more effective crop insurance scheme. The Budget has remained silent on it.

The total estimated spending on the agriculture department is Rs 2,273.65 crore in the current budget. It was Rs 2,582.70 crore for the financial year of 2018-19, under the previous Vasundhara Raje government.

To boost MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), interest subvention on loans of upto Rs 10 crore has been provisioned under the Chief Minister’s Small Scale Industry Incentive Scheme.

Projects: Now and then

The previous Raje government’s ambitious water conservation project, the Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan, will now be replaced by Rajiv Gandhi Jal Sanchya Scheme.

Also read: To Avoid Future Crises, Water Needs to Be Politicised

The Congress government has announced that it will complete two projects that it had started in its previous tenure, the Barmer oil refinery project and the Metro railways, by the end of 2022.

The government has also announced the creation of a Rs 50 crore Mahatma Gandhi Institution in Jaipur, which will also include a Gandhi Museum. Ambedkar Bhawans will be established in all block headquarters except for municipalities and municipal council headquarters.

Putting to rest speculation on the discontinuation of the previous government’s Bhamashah Card identification scheme, the budget brought forth a Rajasthan Jan Aadhaar Yojana — a one card, one number, one identification concept.

After the previous government launched the Dravyavati project aimed at rejuvenation of the Dravyavati river that had turned into little more than a sewage conduit over the years, there had been demands for the upgradation of the sewage treatment plant at Delawas, on the outskirts of Jaipur. The Budget has announced a new 70-million-litres-a-day plant worth Rs 150 crore at Delawas.

Rajasthani language

The state government announced a Rajasthani Literature Festival and the development of a mobile application to translate Rajasthani to Hindi.

The chief minister, in his Budget speech, also announced the establishment of a cultural centre on the lines of Delhi’s Indian International Centre.

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot arrives at the state assembly to present the state budget 2019-20, in Jaipur on July 10. Photo: PTI

Social justice 

The state’s social justice and empowerment sector received an allocation of Rs 8,790 crore — a dip from the Rs 11,118.8 crore allocated last fiscal by the Raje government.

The government has declared the formulation of a new silicosis policy to address the health and security concerns of mining labourers.

The budget also has a new scheme, the Mukhya Mantri Kanyadaan Yojana, through which financial assistance of Rs 21,000 will be provided to educated and adult women belonging to the Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes, and below-poverty-line minority families. A career counselling centre worth Rs 10 crore will be set up for Schedule Tribe students in Jaipur.

Minorities

The Congress government has reduced the budget for minority development. The current budget allocates Rs 144.08 crore for minorities while the previous BJP government had allocated Rs 243.60 crore for their development.

The Congress government has announced plans for the modernisation of madarsas and set aside Rs 10 crore for it. The previous government had allocated Rs 82 crore for the Rajasthan Madarsa Board and schools under it.

Women and children

The Congress government has increased the budget for women and child development from Rs 2,126.26 crore under the previous BJP government to Rs 2,748.41 crore.

The government has initiated a project called Mahila Shakti Nidhi worth Rs 1,000 crore for women empowerment. Keeping in mind the demands of Anganwadi workers and helpers, the government has also sought to increase their remuneration, similar to the previous government.

Also read: Lack of Basic Facilities, Underpaid and Overworked Workers Plague Rajasthan’s Anganwadis

Government vacancies

There has been continuous demand from the youth of the state to begin the process of filling up government vacancies. Gehlot, in his Budget speech, announced a drive to fill up 75,000 government vacancies at various levels in the state.

The Opposition has rubbished the state budget calling it one of “deceit”.

“They came to power promising complete loan waiver within ten days but there is no mention of it in the budget. In the garb of reducing tax, they have implemented a 10% increase in value added tax on petrol and diesel. Even the promised unemployment allowance to the youth is missing,”  Rajasthan BJP said in a statement.

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