Punjab FM presents ₹1,96,462-cr budget, 26% increase in outlay - Hindustan Times
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Punjab FM presents 1,96,462-cr budget, 26% increase in outlay

Mar 10, 2023 04:15 PM IST

₹13,888 crore has been allocated for agriculture and allied activities, which is 20% more than the amount earmarked in the previous year; new agriculture policy on anvil, says Harpal Singh Cheema

Punjab finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema on Friday presented a budget of 1,96,462 crore, 26% more than the amount earmarked in the previous year, for the 2023-24 fiscal.

Punjab finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema presenting the budget for 2023-24 as chief minister Bhagwant Mann looks on in the Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh on Friday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)
Punjab finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema presenting the budget for 2023-24 as chief minister Bhagwant Mann looks on in the Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh on Friday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)

Cheema said 13,888 crore has been allocated for agriculture and allied activities, which is 20% more than the previous financial year. He said the new agriculture policy will also be announced shortly and added that a risk mitigation scheme, Bhaav Antar Bhugtan Yojana, will be launched for horticulture producers.

With the assurance to reduce stubble burning in the upcoming kharif harvest, the FM announced 350 crore for providing machines on subsidy to farmers for in-situ and ex-situ management of paddy straw.

In the current fiscal’s kharif harvest, the minister said the state managed to reduce farm fires by 30% as compared to last year’s 71,304 cases. In the 2022-23 financial year, there were 49,922 farm fires.

For crop diversification, the FM announced 1,000 crore with focus on increasing area under aromatic paddy basmati, cotton and oilseeds and reducing area under water-guzzler paddy varieties.

The AAP government, he said, will provide 9,331 crore for free power to agricultural tubewells.

He said a tax intelligence unit has been notified to check revenue leakage. It will be fully functional in this financial year.

The state finance minister hit out at the Centre for not releasing 9,035 crore, including the rural development fund (RDF) of 2,880 crore for Punjab. “We are making efforts to phase out expensive loans and are requesting the Centre in this regard,” he said.

Cheema said education and health sectors are among the priority sectors for the Aam Aadmi Party government. On the health front, he said 10.5 lakh people have been treated in Aam Aadmi Clinics in the state so far and 26,797 jobs have been given so far by the Bhagwant Mann government.

Allocation for education up by 12%

Cheema proposed an outlay of 17,072 crore for school and higher education, 12% higher than the amount earmarked in the previous year.

“Our government considers quality and outcome-based education as the pillar of any society. We’ll not just concentrate on building classrooms and procuring blackboards and furniture. The focus is and would be on transforming the very way teaching is done. The pivot of all efforts would be to develop critical thinking, problem-solving aptitude, other life skills and most importantly ethics in every student,” the finance minister said.

Cheema shared key initiatives taken in the 2022-23 fiscal, including the process for regularising contractual teaching and non-teaching cadre and the mega-parent teacher meet (PTM) in December 2022 .

“An allocation of 99 crore is proposed in FY 2023-24 for ensuring basic cleanliness and upkeep of schools, while teachers shall concentrate only on academics,” he said.

20 crore has been earmarked for the purpose of school training.

As promised, 117 schools have been identified for being upgraded as schools of eminence. “Work to upgrade has started at four schools of Amritsar on pilot basis. They are being made operational on hub and spoke model, other schools in a given cluster shall be attached to a school of eminence, which will become growth poles of education. They will have the best infrastructure, all education streams, trained faculty, sports and extra-curricular activities, besides career counselling,” he said.

A sum of 200 crore has been earmarked in FY 2023-24 to upgrade schools to schools of eminence.

258 crore for sports, 990 crore for state universities

For sports, Cheema proposed an allocation of 258 crore for FY 2023-24, which is 55% more than last year.

A budgetary outlay of 990 crore is proposed for providing assistance to state universities, such as Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab Agricultural University, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Sri Guru Teg Bahadur State University of Law, Panjab University, Chandigarh, and its constituent colleges.

11% higher allocation for health sector

Cheema proposed a budgetary provision of 4,781 crore for health and family welfare in FY 2023-24 ,which is 11% higher than 2022-23.

“Our government proposes to launch a special project for strengthening all secondary healthcare institutions – community health centres, sub-divisional hospitals and district hospitals in the tate. Not only will a major facelift be given to these hospitals but also a special recruitment drive will be carried out to fill the 363 vacancies of medical officer (specialist) and 470 posts of medical officer (general). I propose an initial outlay of 39 crore in FY 2023-24 for strengthening these health centres,” he said.

The government has already approved seven new mother and child hospitals at a cost of 43 crore. Besides, 37 crore has been earmarked to upgrade five such hospitals.

A sum of 40 crore will be spent on running and upgrading drug management facilities and centres.

A sum of 17 crore will be spent on the procurement of PET scan and SPECT CT machines for the Homi Bhabha

Cancer Centre.

A new 24-hour emergency response service will be introduced by spending 61 crore.

Infrastructure development to get boost

A budgetary outlay of 26,295 crore, which is 13% higher than FY 2022-23, has been proposed for infrastructure development.

“One of the key focus sectors this year will be infrastructure development through judicious capital spending,” said Cheema.

The allocation for upgrading roads and bridges has been raised to 3,297 crore against 1,495 crore in FY 2022-23.

Earlier, chief minister Mann tweeted: “Last year on this day, we got the mandate of the people of Punjab in the election results and today our government is presenting its first full budget, which will give a glimpse of the state moving towards Rangla Punjab.”

After coming to power in March 2022, the AAP government first passed a vote-on account on March 22 and then it presented its budget in June for the remaining part of the year.

Congress member ended the boycott of the chief minister and were present in the House as the finance minister read out the budget proposals.

The Punjab assembly budget session began on March 3 and will continue till March 11. The second part of the session will commence on March 22 after a break for two G20 meetings in Amritsar.

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