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Lok Sabha polls on mind, BJP govt in Uttarakhand to present ‘populist budget’

The state budget could be a populist one as the BJP government gearing up for the 2019 general election is unlikely to introduce any new taxes, officials familiar with the development said on Sunday

dehradun Updated: Jan 21, 2018 20:30 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand News,Prakash Pant,budget
Finance minister Prakash Pant invites suggestions from the public for the exercise, no fresh taxes likely.(HT Photo)

The state budget could be a populist one as the BJP government gearing up for the 2019 general election is unlikely to introduce any new taxes, officials familiar with the development said on Sunday.

Finance minister Prakash Pant, however, refused to confirm or deny whether fresh taxes would be proposed in the the budget. “We are yet to take a call on that issue,” Pant said, adding that the budget 2018-19 could be “people-friendly”.

Pant gave that hint a day after he invited people’s suggestions for the budget during his interaction with them via Facebook.

Senior officials in the finance department, however, said the state government would not introduce fresh taxes or special taxes in the budget to be tabled in March.

“Most old taxes will remain but no new taxes will be introduced in the proposed annual budget as the BJP will not take any such risks as it has to face crucial Lok Sabha elections next year,” an official said requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to the media.

Pant said the Centre in the Union budget 2018-19 to be presented in Parliament on February 1 might make some crucial budgetary allocations from the central pool for the projects to be taken up in the state.

In that context, he “made several presentations” before union finance minister Arun Jaitley in a “pre budget” meeting held with the latter in Delhi recently.

For instance, Pant urged the Centre to allocate a budget of ₹2,900 crore for construction of the long pending Jamrani Dam project to be built on the Gaula river.

“We have also demanded that the Centre declare it (Jamrani Dam project) a national project,” he said, adding that completion of the project would help resolve the potable water scarcity in Kumaon’s Bhabhar sub-region including Haldwani town.

Farm production in that sub-region would also get a boost as there would be ample water for irrigation following completion of that project.

Besides, Jaitley was urged to grant ₹310 crore for the upcoming ropeway project apart from the central funds for expansion of air ports.

“The expansion of airports would be needed following the Centre’s decision to include this state in its regional air connectivity scheme,” Pant said.

A separate annual allocation of ₹300 crore had been sought under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme to augment the potable water supply to rural areas.

“Besides, we have also asked for a separate budgetary assistance for infrastructure like roads and bridges and buildings for schools and hospitals etc,” Pant said, adding that such suggestions had also been made by people during his interaction with them via social media.

“They also came up with suggestions for employment generation,” he said, adding, in that connection the recruitment to some 3,500 posts lying vacant in different departments would be made.

“To create employment opportunities in the private sector a number of skill development programmes will be initiated in the fiscal 2018-19,” Pant said.

“People will also be motivated to go for self employment under the centrally funded schemes like Mudra Banking or Startup India.”

The finance minister hoped that the central government would make some “really good” budgetary allocations for the mountain state’s development.

“We have a lot of hope from the union budget. Later, we will also present the state budget in the assembly by March 31.”

First Published: Jan 21, 2018 20:30 IST