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Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times
Shimla, September 07, 2013
Concerned over decline in revenue, the Himachal Pradesh government is now mulling various austerity measures to bring down the expenditure.
There has been a drastic decline in the state's revenue receipts from January to June this year. The revenue receipts have gone down by Rs. 1,200 crore.

The major area where the government is suffering loss is the hydropower sector that comprises nearly Rs. 400 crore of the total revenue receipts. Since the rates of electricity have fallen down from Rs. 6 per unit to Rs. 2 per unit, the state government was hardly getting any buyers.

What has further made things difficult for the government is tax revenue, which is about Rs. 4,000 crore and had not witnessed any growth in the past six months. The tax receipts of the state are stagnated.

Just a day before, the government officials during a high-level meeting on resource mobilisation discussed ways to curb expenditure. The government mulled different ways to cut down expenditure.

The government has decided to put a ban on purchase of new vehicles in the government sector.

Astonishingly, the government decision came after the state's general administration department brought 10 new Toyota Camry for the cabinet ministers. Each car had cost the government about Rs. 23 lakh. The government spent a total of Rs. 2.3 crore for buying 10 Camry cars.

The general administration department has bought two new Toyota Fortuner for chief minister Virbhadra Singh's cavalcade.

The government spent nearly Rs. 42 lakh on the two vehicles. The government has also cleared the decks for purchase of Mercedes for the chief minister. There is a proposal to purchase new model - Mercedes GL - that costs nearly Rs. 70,000 lakh.

The cabinet has also given nod for purchasing Fortuner for forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri, who complained that the state of roads in his constituency was so bad that he could not travel in Camry. The old Toyota Altis cars have been allotted to eight chief parliamentary secretaries.

The government further decided to cut down pension commutation of its employees from 40% to 20%, though it is yet to issue an official notification.

The government employees at the time of retirement were entitled to withdraw 40% of his or her pension. The government is further planning to limit down commutations. The total salary expenditure of the employees is nearly Rs. 7,000 crore, while it pays Rs. 3,000 crore for the pension.

However, the officers at the meeting resolved that the government should not undertake austerity measures such as banning use of official vehicles for a day like it was during the BJP regime when vehicles did not ply on Monday.

During the BJP regime, even the then chief minister used to walk to his office at the HP secretariat from his official residence “Oak Over”. Further, the official pondered over restricting the air travel bills of the officials, who visit other states for official purposes.