Costlier SUVs and big cars. Tax cuts for electric vehicles and solar rickshaws. A National Clean Energy Fund. Doubling the money to clean India’s holy Ganga.
Budget 2010 appears to be one of the greenest ever.
But those appearances, experts said, appeared deceptive, with many contradictions, and, as an energy expert put it, “ad hoc tinkering”, like minor excise and other tax cuts on environment-friendly LED lights, specific wind, solar and geothermal-energy components, bio-diesels, batteries for solar-powered rickshaws.
“With these proposals, I hope to see a smile on the faces of the green brigade!” Mukherjee said in Parliament.
That didn’t seem evident.
“In terms of the number of words given to green issues, yes, it’s a progressive budget,” said Dr Leena Srivastava, executive director of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
“But it seems there are a host of mixed signals.”
Some big-picture contradictions were: retaining the primacy of coal in power generation, while announcing a slew of tax benefits for electric vehicles, which run on electricity, from the same polluting coal-fired plants.
Also, increasing the allocation for road transport by 13 per cent, while railways — far less polluting — get an increase of about half that amount.
However, energy experts specifically welcomed two initiatives. First, a Rs 50-per-tonne clean-energy cess on domestic and imported coal for a National Clean Energy Fund.
This means more than Rs 2,500 crore will be available to finance clean, innovative technologies.
Second, Rs 500 crore for solar, small and micro hydel projects in the alpine region of Ladakh.
The 61 per cent increase, to Rs 1,000 crore, in the budget for the National Solar Mission, which hopes to set up 20,000 MW of solar power, was seen as inadequate.