The BJP government in Gujarat today presented a populist budget in the election year, with a slew of welfare initiatives and no new taxes.
The BJP government in Gujarat today presented a populist budget in the election year, with a slew of welfare initiatives and no new taxes. Finance Minister Nitin Patel presented the budget for 2017-18 in the Assembly with overall layout of Rs 1,72,179 crore, which is Rs 20,327 crore more than last year. The budget has overall surplus of Rs 239.16 crore while the revenue surplus is estimated at Rs 6,065.60 crore, he said. On tax front, Patel informed the House that the budget does not propose any increase, especially in the Value Added Tax (VAT), as GST will be implemented shortly. Of the total outlay of Rs 1,72,179 crore, Rs 1,03,498.49 crore has been earmarked for developmental expenditure while 66,969 crore allocated for non-developmental expenditure.
Agriculture, irrigation and rural development will get the highest share of 21.88 per cent in the developmental expenditure, followed by education and sports (21.17 per cent), water supply, housing and urban development (16.72 per cent) and energy, industry and minerals (10.42 per cent).
Patel stressed that contrary to the popular belief that state revenues dipped in the wake of demonetisation, the revenues from VAT increased as more taxpayers came under the tax net.
“Against VAT income of Rs 10,198 crore from November to January last year (2015-16), we have received Rs 12,424 crore during the same period in 2016-17. It shows an increase of 21.83 per cent,” the Finance Minister said.
Education sector is the biggest beneficiary in allocations this time with Rs 25,000 crore earmarked for it.
Tablets will be provided to all the XII pass-out students taking admissions in colleges and polytechnics this year at a nominal price of Rs 1,000, he said.
Rs 200 crore have been allocated for the tablet distribution program.
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The government, which would be facing elections in later part of 2017, also announced free education to more than 7.44 lakh girls of class 9 to 12 in the grant-in-aid schools.
It also proposed to simplify the Motor Vehicle Tax structure by allowing new vehicle owners to pay a lump sum one time tax instead of paying every six months or three months.
In a relief to farmers, state government proposed to reduce the rate of lump sum Motor Vehicle Tax from the current 3.5 per cent to 3 per cent on the purchase of tractors. “Farmers purchasing tractors will have to pay around Rs 3,000 less,” said Patel.
The minister also announced two new Sainik Schools, 30 new government secondary and higher secondary schools, 6,500 new rooms in primary schools and four mobile science laboratories, among other provisions for education sector.
As regards the Health and Family Welfare, the budget proposed to open nine new blood banks at district hospitals and 41 new blood storage units at sub-district hospitals.
Patel said Rs 15 crore had been allocated for purchasing 43 ambulances for government hospitals and to add 70 new ambulances to `108′ service.
On the line of the Centre, Patel said the Agriculture and Cooperation Department of the state will be renamed as Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare Department.
Budget also allocated Rs 500 crore for crop loans at 1 per cent interest to about 14 lakh eligible farmers, and promised to open an Organic Agriculture University soon.
To expand the scope of micro-irrigation scheme, a provision of Rs 313 crore is made to increase the state subsidy from 50 per cent to 70 per cent. For SC/ST farmers, the subsidy is increased from 75 per cent to 85 per cent.
To give a boost to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) sector, Patel announced setting up of a separate Commissionerate of MSME.
In the Labour and Employment sector, government promised to provide good quality subsidised food to around 50,000 construction workers at designated places every morning in 10 major cities of Gujarat.
For the Road and Building sector, allocation of Rs 8,812 crore has been made by Patel.
Major portion of this will be utilised for converting 58 roads of total of 730 km length into four-lane roads. Besides, the government also proposed to build 37 new bridges and 88 Railway Over Bridges (RoBs).
For the Ports and Transport department, Patel made an allocation of Rs 1,400 crore.
With an aim to provide formal education related to the maritime economy, operation and maintenance of ports, maritime finance and acts, Rs 20 crore were allocated to set up Gujarat Maritime University.
The much-awaited RoRo ferry service connecting Ghogha port with Dahej over the Gulf of Khambhat will be completed this year, the Finance Minister said, while allocating Rs 24 crore for the project.
For the Narmada canal network under the Sardar Sarovar Project, he allocated Rs 5,100 crore.
This will be the last budget of the present BJP government under Chief Minister Vijay Rupani as the Assembly elections are due in later part of the year.