Concluding the debate on the budget presented by the SAD-BJP government in the Vidhan Sabha, leader of opposition Sunil Jakhar on Monday said the budget “lacked vision” and was “directionless”.
According to Jakhar, the state government is paying Rs 8,000 crore interest on loans every month, which means the per capita burden of interest is Rs 8 every day. “In the last financial year, the government functioned on overdraft for 49 days, which shows the poor fiscal position,” he said, adding that financial experts “suspected integrity of the budget”.
Referring to a study tour of the state government to Gujarat, Jakhar said Punjab could not follow that state as it did not depend on income on liquor whereas in Punjab major receipts (over 14,000 crore) were earned from excise on liquor.
Focusing on the agriculture sector, Jakhar said the state government should at least have sent a dissent on the negligible hike of Rs 50 per quintal on paddy. “We are ready to accompany the ruling coalition to press the Centre for a respectable hike.”
Jakhar asked the government not to cry hoarse that the previous central government led by the UPA had not given funds for agriculture diversification. “Rs 448 crore sent under the Rashrtiya Krishi Vikas Yojana has not been utilised. The government is not doing anything tangible to promote maize as alternative crop. Of the Rs 310 crore sent for making pucca water causeways, only Rs 96 crore was used, and the government must set aside a consolidated fund of Rs 200 crore for procuring sugarcane,” Jakhar said. “When the government is not supporting maize and sugarcane, what diversification are we planning?” Jakhar wondered.
He said the SAD-BJP coalition, which was not willing to accept MNREGA when it was launched, now depended on it for its minimum wages scheme of daily wages of Rs 200. “But the government is not taking up the pending nine lakh applications to be covered under MNREGA,” he said.
Among the other issues raised by Jakhar were how the state government “must not befool people in case metro rail is not feasible in Ludhiana”.
He said there was no mention of CM Aawas Yojana in the current budget proposal even though it was started last year for two years.
Seeking simplified VAT refund system, he also said the master plan for Ludhiana city be renewed wherein CLU is required within city limits. On industry shifting out, he underlined that Trident was setting up terry towel unit in Madhya Pradesh, and Hero Cycles was setting up plant in Chennai.
“Don’t put sweeping blame on bureaucracy; name the black sheep,” he also said.
DON’T MALIGN THE STATE, DEPUTY CM TELLS CONG
Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal on Monday said the Congress in the state was trying to project a deceptive image of the fiscal health of the SAD-BJP government despite the fact that Punjab had the lowest debt among major states.
Taking part in the debate on the budget, he appealed to the Opposition not to malign the state for settling political scores but analyse the budget on the basis of figures.
Clarifying on the total debt on public sector undertakings (PSUs), he said of the Rs 67,000 crore debt, Rs 48,000 crore was the credit limit for procurement of foodgrains, and Rs 11,000 crore the debt on the state power corporation for creating infrastructure and transmission lines. The actual debt on PSUs is Rs 6,000 crore, including Rs 500 crore on the state industrial development corporation, he added.
Comparing the debt of Rs 1.02 lakh crore on the state government to other states, Sukhbir said over a decade, Punjab had incurred the lowest debt in the country.
The deputy CM also listed economic parameters to show that Punjab was on the path of growth and that the debt to gross state domestic product (GSDP) was only 31% now as compared to 46% in 2007. He said the union government itself had a total debt of Rs 56 lakh crore, which came out to be 50% of its GSDP.
Sukhbir also listed steps taken by the government, including the Punjab investment department, which has become the model for the entire country. He said as many as 16 projects had been sanctioned in the past two months, of which 50% were food processing units.