New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party government today presented a "tax-free" budget and rationalised the VAT structure which may reduce the cost of products such as readymade garments, shoes, watches and electric and hybrid vehicles in the national capital.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia presented a Rs. 46,600 crore annual budget for 2016-17, pegging plan outlay at Rs. 20,600 crore. Expectedly, education, health and transport sectors got the lion's share of the total allocation.
Education was allotted Rs. 10,690 crore, or 23 percent of the total, and healthcare Rs. 5,259 crore, a hike of Rs. 472 crore over last year's budget, Manish Sisodia announced in the assembly.
Sisodia also added, "The highest allocation this year has been for eduction." He said Rs. 4,645 crore of the total had been allocated under the plan head.
Taking a dig at the BJP and Congress, Sisodia said, "We are increasing the education budget every year whereas the central government, irrespective of the political party in power, has been decreasing the percentage of budget allocation for education every year."
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal praised the budget. "This is a budget for the people, for aam aadmi."
"The health department is being allocated Rs. 5,259 crore. Delhi will get 1,000 mohalla (community) clinics and 150 polyclinics," said Sisodia. The allocation for health last year was Rs. 4,787 crore.
The government planned to add 10,000 additional beds in its hospitals.
In a major relief for Delhiites, the government would reduce VAT on a slew of products including sweets, namkeens and readymade garments, from 12.5 to five percent.
And in a decision taken clearly with an eye on municipal elections due next year, the budget of the three BJP-held municipal bodies -- whose employees have repeatedly gone on strike -- was hiked by over Rs. 1,000 crore: from Rs. 5,908 crore last year to Rs. 6,919 crore.
"I hope the MCD will utilise this money to pay the salaries of its employees on time. This is public money and the MCD should not waste it by indulging in corrupt activities."
Sisodia said the Aam Aadmi Party government had built 21 new buildings for government schools and these would be functional in July this year.
"We have constructed 8,000 new classrooms, which are equivalent to the infrastructure of 200 schools. If these schools function in double shifts, they will be equivalent to 400 schools," he said.
The Delhi government allocated Rs. 350 crore for 'Swaraj Nidhi', a fund to execute projects selected through Mohalla Sabhas. Sisodia also announced implementation of Swaraj Nidhi in all 70 constituencies.
The planned expenditure of the budget has been pegged at Rs. 20,600 crore and non-plan at Rs. 26,000 crore.
"About 95 percent of the budget will be from our own resources, and only five percent will be provided by the central government. Of the total budget, Rs. 36,500 crore will come from the taxes collected," said Sisodia.
Sisodia said sweets and namkeens were daily consumable items and needed to be made cheaper. VAT on marble was cut from 12.5 to five percent. VAT on watches costing above Rs. 5,000 had been proposed to be reduced from a high of 20 percent to 12.5 percent.
"We tried to bring balance in the rates of goods in Delhi on par with other states to avoid outflow of tax. It was made possible through voluntary compliance, and not through imposition."
VAT on battery operated e-rickshaws and hybrid vehicles has been proposed to be reduced from 12.5 percent to 5 percent.
On the much-hyped WiFi projects, Sisodia said the government would evaluate the pilot projects and come up with more efficient WiFi system in the national capital.
Delhi will get a new Inter-State Bus Terminus at Dwarka, 3,000 new buses including 1,000 in the premium category, two elevated BRT Corridors including from Anand Vihar to Peergarhi (29 km) and from Wazirabad to the Delhi airport (24 km), and Mohalla Rakshak Dals for women's safety.
(With agencies inputs)