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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Poll season bounty for aam admi

Shekhar Iyer & Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 28, 2011
First Published: 00:19 IST(28/2/2011) | Last Updated: 00:22 IST(28/2/2011)

With five states heading for assembly elections in two months, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's budget on Monday is sure to keep the aam admi on top of the government's agenda.

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The states where elections are due in summer are Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry.

A sharp political strategist, Mukherjee is likely to give a sizeable boost to welfare spending, designed to protect incomes of the poorest members of society.

Though he's a tough finance minister, Mukherjee is likely to protect the concerns of the poor who are the main supporters of the Congress and who have been hit hard by the surge in the cost of living, especially food.

With the gross budgetary support of Rs. 4.42 lakh crore, an 18% increase compared to 2010-11, the inclusive growth agenda is likely to see a hike in allocation for most social sector ministries, said official sources who did not want to be named.

Consequently, funds may be cut for ministries such as environment and forests, chemicals and fertilizers and information and broadcasting.
 
A new impetus for the social sector will mean an emphasis on quality education to nurture the benefits of economic growth, provide affordable health facilities across the board and raise investment in agriculture to meet India's increasing food requirement.

Two sectors - health and education - are sure to see a hike of more than 25% increase in fund allocation in the new budget and agriculture and women and child development may witness a hike of more than 30%, official sources indicated.

Health could get as much as Rs. 28,000 crore as compared to Rs. 22,300 crore in the last budget. The HRD ministry can expect to get Rs. 3,000 crore more than the Rs. 11,000 crore it got last year.

Also on the anvil is a revamp of the Public Distribution System, which is a must before the national food security law is introduced.

Cash transfers for the fertilizer and energy sectors announced by the government on a pilot-project basis can also be expected.

Allocations for power and rural development are expected to get a hike of around 17% while the world's biggest job guarantee programme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme may get just 7.5% more than the Rs. 39,100 crore it got last year.

Besides, minority affairs may get a hike of 15%.


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