Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Thursday presented a tax-free annual budget for 2013-2014 with a proposed outlay of Rs 21,767 crore.
The chief minister, who presented the budget for a record 16th time, also announced food and power subsidies of around Rs 450 crore.
He laid more emphasis on the farm sector, unemployment and industries. The budget proposes to generate a surplus of Rs 123.81 crore in 2013-14.
To woo the youth, the chief minister, who also holds the finance portfolio, announced a skill development allowance of Rs 1,000 per month to those who have passed Class 12 and above and are unemployed for at least two years.
The allowance will be for the youth between the age group of 25 and 35. This allowance will be Rs 1,500 per month for persons with disabilities.
The government has also made an attempt to discourage smoking in the state by increasing VAT on cigarettes and cigars from 18% to 36%, whereas VAT on bidis has been raised from 11% to 22%.
To promote tourism, the CM has exempted new hotels in the backward panchayats from luxury tax for 10 years.
He levied 9% VAT on all types of footwear, combining the two existing rates of 5% and 13.75%.
For attracting investments, the chief minister proposed to set up three new state-of-the-art industrial areas in Una, Solan and Kangra districts.
Clearances for industrial projects will be made time bound and brought under the Public Services Guarantee Act, he said.
However, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) described the budget as directionless.
“It’s simply based on the achievements of our previous government. It has failed to give any relief to the common man and even betrayed the unemployed,” said leader of opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal.