Delhi budget: Most sectors see hike in allotment, education remains priority

Published on Mar 23, 2020 11:19 PM IST
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By, New Delhi

The education sector, once again, witnessed the highest allocation in Delhi’s annual budget, followed by health, transport, water and sewer, housing and urban development, power and social security, according to the budget document tabled in the Delhi Assembly by finance minister Manish Sisodia on Monday.

The budget outlay for 2020-21 was proposed at 65,000 crore, which is around 8.33% higher than the previous financial year’s outlay. The proposed budget of 65,000 crore includes 48,070.47 crore for revenue expenditure and 16,929.53 crore for capital expenditure, the document stated.

Sisodia said that, at constant prices, Delhi’s economy in terms of gross domestic product is likely to grow at a rate of 7.42% in 2019-20, compared to an average of around 5% for the whole of India. For the same period, he pegged Delhi’s projected per capita income at around 3.89 lakh.

HEALTH

Healthcare received the second-highest allocation in the 2020-21 budget, with a special allocation of 50 crore for providing adequate quarantine facilities to fight Covid-19. A special provision of 3 crore was made in the revised budget for the current year towards measures to contain Covid-19.

However, according to the former head of AIIMS, Delhi, Dr MC Mishra, “I don’t think 50 crore will be enough to tackle Covid-19 if there is a crisis. But funds can be mobilised according to the needs.”

The government also did a u-turn from its previous stance and decided to implement the central health insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana in Delhi in 2020-2, which aims to provide health insurance cover up to 5 lakh per family every year. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, until February this year, was against the scheme saying that the scheme does not fit in Delhi’s scenario where the per capita income is higher than many other cities in the country.

“Implementing Ayushman Bharat will be beneficial for Delhi; it should complement the Delhi government’s scheme. But portability under Ayushman Bharat would mean that Delhi hospitals will be able to earn from the scheme, with around 40% patients coming from outside the city to avail treatment here. AIIMS Rishikesh is now able to pay the salaries of its staff from the money received under Ayushman Bharat,” Mishra said.

The highest allocation in the sector is for the construction of new hospitals and remodelling of existing ones to add around 16,000 beds to supplement the nearly 10,000 beds that were there when the AAP government took over in its first term. Rupees 724 crore have been allocated for this purpose, a major spike from last year’s revised budget of 195 crore.

Three new hospitals will add 2,800 beds; of these, work on two has already been completed. The government has directed the Public Works Department (PWD) to arrange 200 beds in a Burari hospital to increase its isolation capacity for the fight against Covid-19. The remodelling of at least 15 existing hospitals will add around 5,739 beds.

The newly renamed Mukhya Mantri Swasthya Yojna for free surgery and diagnostics under the Delhi Arogya Kosh will receive a funding of 125 crore, of which 100 crore will go towards replenishing the corpus fund. The government also allocated 70 crore towards health ID cards to link patient information across its hospitals.

EDUCATION

For 2020-21, the government allocated 15,815 crore to this sector, which is around 24.33% of the total budget.

While announcing the budget, Sisodia said that the government would take part in the programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test in 2024. The PISA is an international students’ programme intended to evaluate the educational system by measuring the performance of Mathematics, Science and reading skills of 15-year-old school students. As many as 80 countries participate in the test every year.

The government has announced building 17 new school buildings this financial year and allocated 175 crore for the purpose. Sisodia announced that at least 10 classrooms in all Delhi government schools will be converted into digital classrooms this year. For this, the government has made a provision of 100 crore in the budget. “In the next five years, classes 9, 10, 11 and 12 will be converted into digital classrooms,” Sisodia, also Delhi’s education minister, said.

The government has further announced the establishment of at least five Schools of Excellence—the only completely English medium state-run schools—in all 29 districts of the city. At present, there are only six such schools in Delhi. In each of these schools, there will be an emphasis on any one particular subject, such as science, technology, commerce or sports.

Sisodia, who also shares the education portfolio, said the government intends to make “radical” changes in the syllabus to prepare students for future possibilities. The government has also announced the establishment of a Delhi-based education board. An amount of 62 crore is being allocated for this (including the budget of the State Council for Education Research and Training (SCERT).

To expand its ongoing spoken English programme for students, the Delhi government has allocated 12 crore for it in the budget. The government has decided to expand the programme for the alumni of its schools and provide them classes in spoken English and personality development. A total of 60 crore was proposed to cover around 1 lakh students in 2020-21. The government has also announced it would distribute newspapers to all students in its schools daily, from the upcoming academic session.

Educationist Shyama Chona said that there are several “student-centric” decisions in the budget. “The idea of the establishment of new English medium schools in each district will give more opportunities to students. The idea of converting evening schools into normal-shift schools is also very students’ centric. The proposal for setting up a teacher training university can also make a lot of difference in the quality of teachers we have for government schools in Delhi right now,” she said.

TRANSPORT

This sector witnessed the allocation of 5,941 crore against 5,882 in the previous budget.

Sisodia said new low-floor buses have now been included in Delhi’s transport fleet for the first time since the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Altogether, 2,485 new buses (1,300 DTC and 1,185 cluster buses including 685 electric buses) will be added to the fleet during the year 2020-21 and 1,880 buses (444 DTC and 1,436 cluster buses) will be purchased from 2021-22.

He further said, “It has been decided to convert four depots, including Okhla, Hari Nagar, Vasant Vihar and Hasanpur into multilevel bus depots. These will probably be the first multilevel depots of their kind in the country.”

Work on additional corridors of Metro Phase III and NCR extensions (of length 158km) has already been commissioned and remaining work of about 2km will be completed during this financial year. The government has approved all six corridors of the Metro Phase IV project. However, the government of India has sanctioned only three of them so far, he said.

He further said that the free bus rides scheme for women in Delhi would continue. There, however, was no mention of extending the scheme to students and elderly citizens, which the AAP had proposed ahead of the February 8 Delhi Assembly elections.

ENVIRONMENT & FORESTS

To bring down pollution levels in the national capital in the next five years, the Delhi government on Monday allocated 20,000 crore in its annual budget. In his speech, Sisodia said that this money will primarily be utilised for segregation of plastic waste in every house, programmes to end single-use plastic, rooftop plantation, and gifting plants instead of bouquets in official meetings.

The sum set aside will also be used in public awareness programmes that will contribute towards a better environment, such as promoting the use of public transportation, carpooling, cycling for a short distance and limiting the use of paper.

“To encourage people to contribute towards environmental protection and preservation work, green citizen awards will be instituted,” Sisodia said.

The minister also set aside 2 crore from the budget for a new scheme, where marshals will be deployed in the environment department to compensate for the lack of manpower. A sum of 30 crore will also be utilised to set up smog towers across the city, under the ‘pollution control and management scheme’, which is aimed at controlling pollution on a large scale.

However, in the former chief of the Central Pollution Control Board’s air laboratory D Saha’s opinion, smog towers are not the best option for controlling the high pollution levels in the city as its meteorological conditions make it all the more unsuitable.

“In an open area, there is a limitation on how much these filters can process. Resources should be diverted on doable measures such as limiting car use, greening and controlling dust levels. These are not only comparatively inexpensive, but they also yield better results,” Saha said.

The Delhi government also took credit for increasing the green cover of the city. Sisodia said that the forest and green cover in Delhi has increased from 299.77 square km in 2015 to 324.44 square km in 2019.

WATER & SEWERS

With a hike of about 70% in the total allocation for water supply and sanitation in 2020-21 fiscal compared to last year, the deputy CM proposed an outlay of 3,724 crore for implementing several schemes and projects under the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) beside an amount of 467 crore for continuing with the free lifeline water subsidy scheme to households with a consumption of 20,000 litres per month.

“The reason for this is that more funds have been allocated for unauthorised colonies, sewer treatment plants and interceptor sewerage,” he added.

Providing clean drinking water to every household is one of the promises in the guarantee card launched by the CM. It has mostly continued with its schemes announced last year, including rejuvenation of water bodies, cleaning of the Yamuna river and expanding the sewerage network in unauthorised colonies except for the ‘Mukhyamantri Muft Sewer Yojana’, for which it has allocated another 110 crore.

“Increasing the allocation by 70% is a good step overall. However, the government must focus on a road map for implementing projects under this huge outlay, such as for cleaning the Yamuna. Also, for its free water scheme, they should identify a section, which cannot pay rather than to everyone who consumes up to 20,000 litres. This is important, as these households end up not paying sewer charges as well,” said Manoj Misra of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.

HOUSING & URBAN DEVELOPMENT

Development works have been completed or are in progress in 1,281 colonies of 1,797 unauthorised colonies in Delhi. Development work in all colonies will be completed by the end of 2020-21. “Of the 3,723 crore allotted to this sector, 1,700 crore has been set aside for the purpose,” said Sisodia in his budget speech.

The budget document said that to supplement general development works at the local level, a new scheme “Chief Minister Local Area Development” has been proposed in the budget estimate 2020-21 with an outlay of 400 crore, in addition to 450 crore for “Mukhyamantri Sadak Punrothan Yojana”.

In order to take care of the safety and security of people in every part of Delhi, a new scheme “CM Mohalla Suraksha Yojana” with an allocation of 100 crore has been proposed in the 2020-21 budget, the document stated.

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