Himachal Pradesh budget: The state’s Congress government presented its first Budget on Friday (March 17), announcing a monthly allowance for over two lakh women, a “çow cess” on alcohol, and subsidies on electric vehicles as part of a plan to make Himachal Pradesh a “green state” in three years.
In his over two-hour Budget speech in the state assembly, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said 30,000 vacant posts in government departments will be filled in the coming financial year. Counting in the private sector, the government hopes to create about 90,000 new jobs.
Tipplers will pay an extra Rs 10 on each bottle of liquor as cow cess under the 2023-24 Budget, fetching the government an additional Rs 100 crore- money meant to help dairy farmers. The government said it will protect milk producers from price fluctuations and spend Rs 500 crore this year on “Him Ganga Yojana” for them, beginning with a pilot version.
Fish farmers will get an 80 per cent subsidy for building small reservoirs. As part of the state’s green push, the government will promote hydropower and solar energy. Sukhu said 1,500 diesel buses of the state roadways corporation will be replaced with electric ones in a phased manner at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore.
Other announcents in budget:
Private bus and truck operators will get a 50 per cent subsidy- up to a total of Rs 50 lakh- if they buy e-vehicles instead of the ones run on diesel. Sukhu said 20,000 girls studying at government institutions will get Rs 25,000 each to help them buy electric scooters.
Young people will get a 50 per cent subsidy for setting up charging points for electric vehicles and a 40 per cent subsidy for setting up small hydel project of up to two megawatts. Two panchayats in every district will be turned into e-panchayats. The chief minister said his government will fulfil all election promises in a phased manner.
For one of them, the Budget sets aside Rs 416 crore for an allowance of Rs 1,500 per month for 2.31 lakh women who are currently getting a smaller government pension. Reacting later to the Budget, the BJP said it is not clear if this would be an additional sum. The Congress had promised it would give Rs 1,500 per month to all women in the 18 to 60 age group before it came to power in the state in December, he reminded.
BJP reaction on Himachal budget:
Leader of Opposition and former CM Jai Ram Thakur claimed that the Sukhu government has simply renamed schemes that were run by the previous BJP government. The Rs 53,413 crore Budget comes with a revenue deficit of Rs 4,704 crore. The fiscal deficit is pegged at 4.61 percent of the Gross State Domestic Product.
The chief minister reminded that his government has restored the old pension scheme for government employees. All widows and people with disabilities will now get a social security allowance, 40,000 new old age pensioner will be added and Rs 100 crore spent on a recently announced scheme for orphaned children this year.
The Budget provides Rs 1.50 lakh each for 7,000 widows and single women under a government scheme to help them construct houses. The annual MLA Area Development Fund has been increased from Rs 2 crore to Rs 2.10 crore. The government has also hiked the honorarium for representatives of panchayats and urban local bodies.
The state has also increased daily wages under the Centre’s government's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) from Rs 212 to Rs 240, benefiting nine lakh workers. This will cost the government Rs 100 crore over the year.
Healthcare facilities in HP:
On healthcare, Sukhu said casualty wards in all five government medical colleges in the state will be upgraded to emergency medicine departments. Robotic surgery will be introduced there in a phased manner. A model health facility and a model day-boarding school will be opened in every assembly constituency. Kangra district will be developed as a “tourism capital” with attractions like water sports, ‘shikaras’ and cruises. It will also get a zoo, a golf course and a tourist village.
All 12 districts in the state will have heliports within a year. Kangra airport will be expanded and land acquisition for Mandi airport speeded up. The CM also announced the revival of the Rs 1,373-crore Jatia Devi township project with assistance from the central government.
He said an “open arms” industrial investment policy will be in place. A Bureau of Investment Promotion will replace the existing Single Window Clearance Authority to provide all facilities under one roof, aiming to attract Rs 20,000 crore investment in the industrial and tourism sectors.
(With agencies inputs)