It’s a bag of goodies for the voter. The last budget that this Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government in Maharashtra presented on Thursday doesn’t have too many big-ticket populist schemes but there are giveaways totalling over Rs 7,000 crore for various crucial sections.
The assembly elections round the corner were clearly on his mind as Finance Minister Dilip Walse-Patil has not imposed any taxes that will evoke negative reactions from the voters.
And there are loan waivers all round. Debts of farmers not covered under previous loan waivers will be written off at a cost of Rs 2,500 crore. As will loans totalling Rs 1,100 crore given to socially backward classes by various government corporations.
The government will also spend Rs 1,200 crore on reimbursing fees of socially and economically backward students of professional colleges. Besides, 52,800 scholarships are proposed for students from the minority community.
There are other sops too for tribal communities and minorities — the traditional vote banks of the ruling parties. From now, the government will pay power bills of water supply schemes in tribal areas. Loans valued at Rs 184 crore given to tribals have also been waived.
Over Rs 9,000 crore has been made to speed up irrigation and water supply in backward areas including Vidarbha. The government will spend Rs 2,082 crore to subsidise supply of electricity to powerloom units in Bhiwandi and Malegaon.
In cities like Mumbai, slumdwellers and tenants will get 300 square feet houses instead of 225 square feet units as promised earlier under various redevelopment schemes.
The government will also build markets for women’s self-help groups to sell their products. There are over one lakh such groups across the state.
And it’s not all about bread and butter issues. Religious and political sentiments have been addressed too.
Pilgrim centres in the state — Dehu near Pune, Sant Gajanan Maharaj Memorial near Akola, Sant Tukdoji Maharaj Memorial near Amravati, Poharadevi Temple near Washim, and Ardhapur Mahavihar near Nanded — will get significant amounts for their development.
The government will also make a movie on the late YB Chavan, former Chief Minister who was very popular in western Maharashtra.
Besides, elected representatives of local self-government institutions will get more allowances.The government will also pay the travel bills of women sarpanches.