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Himachal CM presents budget of Rs 58,444cr with fiscal deficit of Rs 10,784cr

IANS | February 17, 2024 05:55 PM

SHIMLA: Announcing a four per cent dearness allowance for employees and a scheme to encourage natural farming, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Sukhu on Saturday presented a budget of Rs 58, 444 crore for 2024-25 with the fiscal deficit of Rs 10, 784 crore, which is 4.75 per cent of the state domestic product.

The focus of the budget was on strengthening state’s mainstay agriculture, horticulture and dairy sectors.

In the populist but deficit budget, Thakur, who holds the finance portfolio, said the economic reforms would help the state to be self-reliant.

Daily wages have been enhanced from Rs 375 to Rs 400, outsource employees will get minimum wages of Rs 12, 000.

The MLA Local Area Development Fund has been enhanced from Rs 2.10 crore to Rs 2.20 crore. The current MLA priorities limit has been enhanced from Rs 175 crore to Rs 195 crore and MLA Discretionary Grant from Rs 13 to 14 lakh in each assembly segment.

He said as his government assumed charge, the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) was restored. “A total of 1, 15, 000 employees have already opted OPS. All employees who have come to OPS have received the General Provident Fund (GPF) subscription. About 5, 000 employees who have shifted from NPS to OPS, have been issued Pay and Pension Orders (PPOs) as per the OPS after their retirement.”

Talking about the steps taken for financial prudence, Thakur, who presented his second budget, said the adverse financial situation that the government inherited from the previous government “is known to everyone”.

“Our Government is facing many challenges due to financial mismanagement and wasteful expenditure spree practised by the previous government. Due to wrong policies in the past, the total liabilities in the form of loans have risen to Rs 87, 788 crores.

“The total debt liabilities have increased from Rs 47, 906 crore in 2018 to Rs 76, 651 crore in 2023. The previous government implemented the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations for government employees at the end of its tenure, which could have been implemented earlier.

“Due to this delay, the arrears on account of the revised salaries of the employees kept increasing and their liabilities were handed over to our government. But the present government did not allow the pace of development to slow down due to lack of resources. As soon as we assumed power, we took tough decisions and started efforts to mobilise additional resources.

“Due to changes in state excise policy, an increase of Rs 359 crore is expected in state excise duty in 2023-24 as compared to the previous year. Last year, Rs 1, 370 crore were received as VAT, which is estimated to be Rs 1, 773 crore by the end of 2023-24.”

The Chief Minister said the state excise duty and VAT together are expected to register a growth rate of 22 per cent. “It is estimated that approximately Rs 116 crore will be received through ‘milk cess’. The resources thus raised will be used for the development and welfare.”

The Chief Minister foresees the growth rate of the state's economy estimated to be 7.1 per cent during 2023-24, compared to 6.9 per cent during 2022-23.

During 2023-24, he said, the per capita income in Himachal is estimated at Rs 235, 199. The state’s Gross Domestic Product is estimated to be Rs 2, 07, 430 crore in 2023-24.

The Chief Minister announced a new scheme “Rajiv Gandhi Prakritik Kheti Start-up Yojana” as the third component of Rs 680 crore ‘Rajiv Gandhi Start-up Yojana’ aimed at increasing the income of farmers.

To encourage natural farming, 10 farmers from each panchayat in the first phase will be encouraged for chemical-free farming, resulting in about 36, 000 farmers adopting it.

He said that farmers who are already doing farming will be given priority.

“As the farmers continue to join this scheme and use cow dung instead of urea and fertilizer in the production of wheat and urea in maize, I announce that their grains will be purchased at a minimum support price (MSP).

“With the aim of motivating unemployed youth for natural farming, maximum of 20 quintals of naturally grown grains per family will be procured by the government at the MSP of Rs 40 per kg and maize at the rate of Rs 30 per kg.”

He said under the Himachal Pradesh Agriculture Mission, high-value crops will be promoted in various areas based on climate, so that the income of farmers can increase by maximum amount in the shortest time.

According to the budget, out of every Rs 100 expenditure, Rs 25 will be on salaries, Rs 17 on pension, Rs 11 on interest payment, Rs 9 on loan repayment, Rs 10 on grants for autonomous institutions, while the remaining Rs 28 expenditure will be spent on other activities including capital works.

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