The Kejriwal government in its first budget on Thursday gave a big boost to education sector, made movies and gym visits expensive and proposed Wi-Fi in all colleges as it tried to balance poll promises with economic prudence.
Presenting the Rs 41,129 crore budget, Delhi’s finance minister Manish Sisodia told the assembly no new taxes had been proposed and one of the highest allocations — Rs 4,570 crore — made to the education sector, 106% more than the last budget. The transport sector got Rs 3,695crore and health Rs 3,138 crore out of the plan expenditure of Rs 19,000 crore.
“We have taken into account expectations and aspirations of the people of Delhi while preparing this budget. This is a budget for the Aam aadmi,” said Sisodia.
The budget, drawn up with active participation of city residents over a month, was a milestone towards achieving the ideal of Swaraj (good governance), he said.
Apart from retaining power and water subsidies, the government proposed 10,000 new buses, Wi-Fi for colleges and rural areas, subsidy to e-rickshaw owners, CCTVs in all public transport and marshals in buses for women safety.The government also proposed a 5 percentage point increase in luxury tax to 15% that will make spa and gym visits and hotel stays more expensive. Movies, too, will cost more as entertainment tax has been doubled to 40%. A monthly entertainment tax of Rs 40 has been proposed for cable TV/DTH services.
Striking a careful balance between populism and a reformist image, the Aam Aadmi Party, which rode to power on promise of clean and corruption-free governance, sought to address another problem – rising pollution.
Sisodia, who is also the deputy CM, proposed an entry tax — between Rs 100 and Rs 1,500 — on diesel vehicles entering Delhi, which has the dirtiest air among the world’s cities. The move could knock up prices as the Capital depends on commercial vehicles for almost all its daily needs.
“Everything will become expensive. They should have levied this tax on luxury cars, but by levying the tax on commercial vehicles it would become another way to harass the people dealing in goods vehicle,” said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, Confederation of All India Traders. He said truckers would pass on the enhanced costs to the consumer that would push up prices of essential commodities.
Hotel associations are planning to meet chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to demand withdrawal of the luxury tax. “We will demand a rollback as it will impact tourism and hospitality sector in the city,” said Arun Gupta, president of Paharganj hotel association.
Kejriwal hailed the budget and said the government would ensure that all poll promises were fulfilled within five years.