Himachal: No new taxes as CM Sukhu presents ₹53,413-crore budget; bets big on green energy
CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu announced a slew of green energy schemes, aimed at promoting clean energy and reducing fossil fuel consumption in Himachal while presenting a ₹53,413 crore tax-free budget in the assembly. This includes subsidies for electric vehicles and solar power plants.
Strap: No new taxes as Sukhu presents ₹53,413 cr budget, focus on revenue generation, job creation; cow cess of ₹10 on sale of each bottle of liquor
Batting for a systemic change and intending to bring the economy back on track, Himachal chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, who also holds the finance portfolio, presented a ₹53,413 crore tax-free budget in the assembly on Friday with a special focus on revenue generation, job creation, green energy and modernisation of health services. The CM announced a slew of green energy schemes, aimed at promoting clean energy and reducing fossil fuel consumption in the state. This includes subsidies for electric vehicles and solar power plants.
Sending out a green message, the chief minister himself commuted to the Vidhan Sabha from his official residence Oakover in an electric car.
Sukhu introduced 13 new schemes. With more than a dozen new schemes, the budget estimate is around 4% higher than the 2022-23 budget of ₹51,365 crore.
Terming it different from previous budgets with emphasis on increasing the state’s resources, Sukhu said his first budget is an important step in the direction of achieving the objective of “Vyavastha Parivartan” (systemic change).
The government announced the first-of-its-kind cow cess of ₹10 on the sale of each bottle of liquor. The move to impose cow cess will fetch additional revenue of ₹100 crore per annum, Sukhu said.
“The Congress government inherited a precarious fiscal situation in the state when it assumed power on December 11, 2022. I request cooperation from all members of the House in making efforts to deal with the situation and to improve the fiscal health of the state,” the CM said.
In his budget speech that lasted for more than two hours, Sukhu said the Congress government has inherited a huge debt and liability of about ₹10,000 crore on account of arrears of salaries of employees and pensioners and dearness allowance from the previous government. The state’s budgetary resources have been adversely affected due to the discontinuation of GST compensation after June 2022.
A new direction has been given to the development strategy for developing Himachal as a green state and for countering adverse effects of global warming and climate change, he said. The CM said that the government intends to create 50,000 jobs this year end.
Sukhu said the budget emphasises on increased investment in infrastructure in tourism, transport, roads and bridges and power sectors and also on strengthening health, education and other citizen-centric services through digitisation.
The increased investment will result in the creation of additional employment opportunities for the youth of the state and also improve service delivery.
For 2019-20, the state is expected to grow at 6.4%, and the SGDP is expected to be ₹1.95 lakh crore, around ₹19,135 crore more than the previous year’s SGDP. The per capita income of ₹2.22 lakh is ₹51,000-odd higher than the national figure.
The CM said an outlay of ₹9,524 crore has been proposed for State Development Budget 2023-24 while ₹2,399 crore for The Scheduled Caste Development Programme, ₹857 crore for Tribal Development Programme and ₹104 crore for Backward Area Development Programme.
Sukhu said after coming to power, his government restored the Old Pension Scheme for employees and the cabinet has passed a resolution seeking the central government to return ₹8,000 crore NPS Fund to the state. He said opposition should also help in getting back the fund.
The chief minister also announced ₹1,500 per month to 2.31 lakh eligible women in phased manner to fulfil the guarantee promised by the government.
To make Himachal a green energy state by March 31, 2026, and apart from hydropower, the focus will be on promoting alternative clean energy, including solar energy, he said.
“A target of starting new solar energy projects with a capacity of 500 MW has been set in 2023-24,” said the CM.
He said two panchayats in each district of the state will be developed as green panchayats on a pilot basis. Solar power projects with capacities ranging from 500 KW to 1 MW capacity will be set up in these panchayats.
A solar power-based “battery energy storage system project” will be set up in tribal Pangi valley to strengthen its power supply system,” he said.
“Youth of the state would be given 40% subsidy for setting up solar energy plants of capacity 250MW to 2MW on their owned or leased land,” said the chief minister.
The state electricity board will buy electricity from these plants and youth will earn up to ₹15 lakh per year from a plant of capacity 250KW.
Also, Himachal will be developed as a model state for EVs. Apart from announcing a 50% subsidy, up to a maximum of ₹50 lahk on the purchase of e-buses, e-trucks, and setting up charging stations, the CM also announced to development of more than a dozen national highways as green corridors.
The CM said all diesel buses of the HRTC fleet will be replaced with electric buses.
The chief minister said that the revenue receipts in FY 2023-24 are estimated to be ₹37,999 crore and the total revenue expenditure of ₹42,704 crore, pegging the resultant revenue deficit to be ₹4,704 crore. The fiscal deficit is estimated to be ₹9,900 crore which is 4.61% of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP).
Out of every ₹100, ₹26 will be spent on salary, ₹16 on pension, ₹10 on interest payment, ₹10 on loan repayment, ₹9 on grants to autonomous institutions and the remaining ₹29 on other activities, including capital works.
Modernisation of health services
The CM said the government aims at equipping medical colleges with world-class medical technology and robotic surgery facilities will be started in medical colleges in a phased manner. An amount of nearly ₹100 crore will be spent on it during 2023-24.
A centre of excellence for cancer care and nuclear medicine department will be started in Dr Radhakrishanan Government Medical College, Hamirpur.
The Himachal Pradesh Medical Services Corporation will be formed for the procurement of quality medicines, machinery and equipment with the latest technology at competitive prices and time-bound manner supply.
New industrial investment policy on cards
The CM said the government will soon bring a new industrial investment policy which would be followed by an open arm policy. The existing single window system will be transformed into a bureau of investment promotion for which a bill will be introduced in the assembly.
For promoting the ‘one district one product’ concept, unity mall will be established in the state where GI-tagged and handicraft products will be available under one roof.
To take forward the vision of late PM Rajiv Gandhi of ‘Digital India’, Sukhu said the government would establish an e-office system in directorates and deputy commissioner offices.
All sections of the state secretariat will be connected to the e-office from July 1, 2023, said Sukhu, asserting that it will bring efficiency to government work.
A DBT portal and integrated data base management system putting together the databases of various departments will be created in four months for DBT mapping of different welfare schemes of various departments.
A registry “Him Parivar” is being set up to have relevant data of all the families on one platform and a unique ID will be given to each family so that get the benefits of all the government schemes at one place.
Him-Ganga to boost milk production
Announcing ₹500 Him-Ganga scheme to develop a milk-based economy, the chief minister said under the scheme cattle rearers will be provided true cost-based milk prices and qualitative improvement will be brought in the system of milk procurement, processing and marketing.
The scheme will also ensure protection from regional and seasonal price fluctuations of milk and milk products. New milk processing plants will and existing upgraded.
₹8,828 cr for education sector
Announcing an outlay of ₹8,828 crore for the education sector, Sukhu said the focus will be on both quality and quantitative improvement of the education system while implementing the National Education Policy 2020 in the state, to improve the learning outcomes of children.
He said the process for filling up vacant posts of teachers in educational institutions will be expedited.
“The government believes in providing better facilities in terms of adequate teachers, libraries, lab facilities, good buildings and sports grounds in functional schools instead of only opening new schools or upgrading existing schools,” he added.
Subsidies for girl students on electric scooty
A subsidy of ₹25,000 each would be provided to 20,000 meritorious girl students above the age of 18 years studying in government institutions to purchase electric scooty. This will not only encourage girl students to pursue higher education but will also help to develop Himachal Pradesh as a green state.
He announced an ICT library room in each senior secondary school; tablets for 10,000 meritorious students, digital hardware and software in 762 schools under the ICT scheme; tablets for 17,510 primary regular teachers and arrangement and 40K desks for government schools. The CM also announced value-added courses in technical education.