Of budgetary allocations and electoral promises

| | in Oped

The Adityanath Government’s Budget is a mixed bag. While it gives preference to infrastructure, roads, and farm-loan waivers, it seems to have forgotten the commitment it made to grassroot level schemes during its election campaign. Nevertheless, the Government gets the thumbs up

When Uttar Pradesh Finance Minister Rajesh Agarwal  presented the State Budget for the fiscal 2017-18 in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly on July 10, all eyes were on him. This not because it was the first fiscal document of the Adityanath Government, but because people wanted to see how this Government maintains fiscal discipline while walking a tight-rope of fulfilling poll promises as well as giving impetus to its development agenda. Undoubtedly, the Government got the thumps up.

It not only ensured enough fuel for the growth engine to move efficiently but also pegged fiscal deficit to less than three per cent. Deficit has come down to 2.97 per cent from 3.01 per cent during the last fiscal. Total debt too decreased to 28.6 per cent from over 30 per cent of the State’s gross domestic product.

It is, therefore, not surprising that after the announcement of the Budget, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that it is the beginning of a new era which would ensure rapid development of the State to make it a front line State of India in all indices of development. Despite the Government earmarking a whopping Rs 36,000 crore as farm-loan waiver scheme — as it was the commitment made during the Assembly election —  the Budget promises to take the State forward on higher growth trajectory which has been pegged at 10 per cent for the next five years. The total Budget has been pegged at Rs 3,84,659.71 crore — an increase of 10.9 per cent from previous fiscal.

There is no secret that Uttar Pradesh is one of the most backward States in the country where politics has always got the better of economics. In the last 30 years, infrastructure has not developed. This has resulted in the State having poor roads where electricity plays truant. Industries have closed down. This has resulted in not only skewed credit-deposit ratio but also unemployment. The flight of ‘brain’ towards developed States like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu is continuous and is increasing every passing day.

In this backdrop, the Adityanath Government’s Budget, which is a perfect balance between the rural and urban development, has come as a hope that can turn the tide. The Government has earmarked Rs 67,682.61 crore for agriculture and associate work, which is Rs 37,910.76 crore more than the previous Akhilesh Yadav Government’s allocation for this sector. This amount also includes Rs 36,000 crore as loan-waiver.

For urban areas, the Budget talked about metro rail projects in select cities like Varanasi, Kanpur, Gorakhpur and Agra. The Government also proposed the construction of Bundelkhand Expressway and Purvanchal Expressway that will connect two backward regions of the State with the Greenfield Expressway. Besides, new projects and schemes worth Rs 55,781.96 crore were also introduced. However, the highpoint of this Budget is that despite financial restraints, the Finance Minister was able to increase financial outline for almost all schemes and projects related to infrastructure development.

Allocation for the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana has been doubled to Rs 3,000 crore in this fiscal, while Rs 4,500 crore has been provided for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana which was only Rs 3,100 crore in the last fiscal. Besides, Rs 2,100 crore has been provided for rural employment scheme; Rs 900 crore for the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission against Rs 70 crore last year and Rs 3,200 crore for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan against Rs 1,500 crore in 2016-17.

The Budget document has the BJP’s stamp of Hindutva as it marks the launch of Swadesh Darshan and Prasad Scheme that will focus on the Ramayana, Lord Krishna and Buddhist circuit; Rs 1,240 crore has been earmarked for this. Budgetary allocations have also been made for setting up of Gita Shodh Sansthan and Sri Krishna museum. Besides Rs 800 crore has been proposed for the development of roads and power infrastructure in Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura. Another Rs 200 crore has been proposed for setting up of

cultural centre in Varanasi.

The Government has also proposed the development of Parikrama Marg in Vrindavan and conservation of cultural heritage in Chitrakoot. Kailash Mansarovar Bhawan will be set up at Ghaziabad at the cost of Rs 20 crore.

It is not that Government was able to include all projects it had promised during the election campaign or in its manifesto, the Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra, in the budget. There are many schemes which the Government was forced to give up because it did not have enough money. The Government has shelved the poll promise to give laptops to students who have passed Class XII exams this year. But the Budget document is silent on this as it simply does not have enough money due to Government’s commitment to clear crop loan. Besides, the Government is committed to pay salary as per the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, said a senior officer.

The Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra says that the Government will launch the Swami Vivekanand Yuva Internet Yojana under which students who take admission in colleges will get free one gigabyte Internet facility every month. The Budget was silent on this scheme.

Another scheme which the Government ignored is the Bhagya Lakshi Yojana under which the Government would give a bond of Rs 50,000 to a girl child of below poverty line family. The schemes like the Garib Kalyan Card; the Poor Welfare Card and setting up of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana was also ignored.

(The writer is Chief of Bureau, The Pioneer, Lucknow)

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