Cong Govt presents Himachal’s first ‘green’ budget

| | Shimla
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Cong Govt presents Himachal’s first ‘green’ budget

Saturday, 18 March 2023 | PNS | Shimla

Congress-led Himachal Pradesh Government on Friday presented its maiden budget with a total outlay of Rs 53,413 crore for 2023-24 laying special focus on tapping renewable energy, strengthening agriculture and horticulture sectors, women empowerment and, a promise to create 90,000 jobs.
 
In a populist budget, presented by the Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu — who also holds finance portfolio, the Congress party made an attempt to fulfil its various pre-poll promises by announcing fixed monthly payment of Rs 1,500 for women, subsidies on electric two-wheelers, restoration of the old pension scheme, social security pension for widows and disabled, Sukhashraya scheme for orphans, a housing scheme for single women, among other things.
 
Also announcing cow cess on each liquor bottle sold fetching an additional revenue of Rs 100 crore annually, the Chief Minister also announced various other initiatives to make Himachal a green state by 2026.
 
“This is the first-of-its-kind state’s ‘green budget’. Steps would be taken to develop the state as ‘Green Energy State’ by March 2026, said Sukhu, in his over two-hour budget speech in Hindi. In an apparent attempt to buttress the government’s go-green stand, Sukhu arrived in an electric car to present a “paperless” Budget.
 
Punctuating his speech with poetic verses, and quotes from famous Hindi writers, Sukhu also did not let go any opportunity to take a dig at the Opposition through his poetry, winning applause.
 
“The government aims to make Himachal Pradesh a green state by 2026 by promoting hydropower and solar energy through the adoption of electric vehicles to check pollution…Himachal Pradesh will be made the model state for adopting electrical vehicles,” he said, while announcing that 1,500 diesel buses of Himachal Road Transport Corporation will be replaced by electric buses in phases at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore.
 
Also, a 50 per cent subsidy will be given to youth for setting up charging points. The state will also provide a 40 per cent subsidy to youth for setting up small hydropower projects of 200 Kw to 2 MW.
 
Sukhu also announced a subsidy of Rs 25,000 for the purchase of electric two-wheelers for 20,000 girls studying in government schools in the State. Besides, the Government will ensure at least two panchayats in every district be made green panchayats.
 
The Chief Minister said that his government will fulfil all the promises made to the people during elections in a phased manner. In the first phase, 2.31 lakh women will get Rs 1,500 per month as promised, he said, adding that the payout will cost Rs 416 crore per year to the state exchequer.
 
Announcing the restoration of the old pension scheme, the Chief Minister said that it will benefit 1.36 lakh employees. “The Cabinet has already passed a resolution to impress upon the Government of India to return the NPS (National Pension Scheme) amount of about Rs 8,000 crore deposited with it,” he added.
 
He also announced that about 30,000 vacant posts in various State Government departments will be filled in the coming financial year.
 
A social security pension has been announced for widows and the disabled, while the Sukhashraya scheme has been launched for orphans. A housing scheme will also be launched for single women with a provision of up to 40 per cent subsidy, the chief minister said.
 
The budget has increased the MLA area development fund from Rs two crore to Rs 2.10 crore, while the honorarium for panchayat representatives and urban local bodies has also been increased. The state has also hiked the daily wages under the Central Government's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) from Rs 212 to Rs 240.
 
Also announcing measures to improve healthcare facilities in the state, the Chief Minister said that the casualty wards in all medical colleges will be upgraded to emergency medicine departments and all five medical colleges will have robotic technology.
 
One model health institution and one model day-boarding school would be opened in every assembly constituency. Emergency medicine departments will be opened in hospitals to reduce pressure on the emergency ward, while nursing colleges would be opened in three medical colleges, the Chief Minister said.
 
In order to boost tourism, Sikhu said that Kangra district will be developed as the tourist capital and all 12 districts will be connected with heliport facilities in the next one year.
 
The Chief Minister also announced the revival of the Jatia Devi township project and the implementation of Rs 1,373-crore project with assistance from the Central Government.
 
Sukhu also announced up to 80 per cent subsidy to fishermen for taking up various fisheries projects.
 
The growth of the state's GDP has remained sluggish during 2022-23 and dropped to 6.4 per cent as compared to the 7.6 per cent growth recorded in 2021-22. The state faces a huge debt of Rs 75,000 crore and other liabilities on account of payment of arrears of revised pay scales and DA amounting to Rs 11,000 crore.
 
Expressing concern over the state’s precarious fiscal health, Sukhu said: “We have inherited a huge debt and a liability of about Rs 10,000 crore on account of arrears of salaries of employees and pensioners and dearness allowance from the previous government.
 
“Policies of the previous government have resulted in a debt of Rs 92,833 on every person of Himachal Pradesh. The state's budgetary resources have been adversely affected due to discontinuation of GST compensation after June 2022…This will adversely affect the financial position of the state in the coming years. Revenue Deficit Grant (RDG) from the Central government will reduce from Rs 9,377 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 3,257 crore in 2025-26,” he said.
 

Sukhu’s ‘Populist’, ‘Green’ Budget
•         2.31 lakh women to get Rs 1,500 per month
•         1,500 diesel buses to be replaced with e-buses at a cost of Rs 1,000 cr
•         Honorarium for Panchayat representatives, ULBs, hiked;
•         MNREGA daily wages raised from Rs 212 to Rs 240
•         Rs 25,000 subsidy on purchase of e-scooters to 20,000 girl students of govt schools
•         New Horticulture Policy to save horticulturist from the clutches of middlemen
•         Casualty wards in all medical colleges to be upgraded to emergency medicine depts
•         Robotic technology to be introduced
•         Kangra district to be developed as tourist capital
•         All 12 districts to be connected with heliport facility in next one year
•         Social security pension for widows and disabled
•         Sukhashraya scheme for orphans
•         Housing scheme for single women
•         50% subsidy for youth to setup charging points
•         40% subsidy for youth to setup small hydropower projects of 200 Kw to 2 MW
•         Each district to have at least two “green” panchayats

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