Gujarat’s Budget for 2016- 17, presented in the Assembly today, focuses on social sector and rural development, apparently factoring in the debacle suffered by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in last year’s Panchayat polls, while it proposes to hike tax on certain items like luxury cars.
Presenting the Budget, Finance Minister Saurabh Patel said the total outlay of Rs 1,51,852 crore for 2016-17 shows an increase of 13 per cent over the last fiscal, when the overall size of the Budget was Rs 1,39,139 crore.
This year, too, the government presented a Budget with overall surplus of Rs 245 crore and revenue surplus of Rs 3,236 crore. The state has hiked tax on certain items, which is likely to net Rs 195 crore, and also provided tax relief to the tune of Rs 251 crore.
The planned expenditure proposed for 2016-17 stood at Rs 85,558 crore as against Rs 79,295 crore in last fiscal. Of this, a whopping 47.09 per cent would be utilised for social sector development and 6.94 per cent towards farm segment.
The Budget proposed to hike tax on luxury cars and expensive bikes from 15 per cent to 20 per cent. The new rate will be applicable on cars and SUVs having price tag of more than Rs 15 lakh and bikes costing over Rs 2.5 lakh.
To discourage people from consuming pan masala and related items, the state has proposed to hike tax on them to 25 per cent from 15 per cent now.
During his speech, Patel said the Budget focuses on the common man, especially those living in rural and tribal areas. Importance has been given to build rural infrastructure such as roads, schools, colleges and health services.
“This Budget aims at increasing income of people living in tribal and rural belt. We have also taken care of rural infrastructure and development of agriculture sector by introducing schemes for farmers and cattle rearers.”
Social services have been accorded special priority, he said. “Allocation for social services is Rs 40,285 crore this year (FY17), which is Rs 1,801 crore more than last year. For agriculture, we have allotted Rs 5,940 crore while Rs 2,764 crore has been earmarked for rural development.”
For boosting rural road infrastructure, Rs 2,500 crore has been allocated under ‘Mukhya Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna.
A provision of Rs 185 crore has been made in Annual Development Plan for developing 300 villages as ‘Smart Villages’.
“The Government has made a provision of Rs 375 crore to provide interest relief to farmers under which interest on kharif crop loan up to Rs 3 lakh will be only 1 per cent. This will benefit 28 lakh farmers,” said Patel.
The focus on rural areas comes in backdrop of BJP’s heavy defeat in District and Taluka Panchayat polls late last year. Gujarat will face State polls in late-2017.