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Punjab budget: Shot in the arm for fund-starved Punjab varsities

Punjab govt announces key steps to boost social sector, especially health and education.

punjab Updated: Mar 25, 2018 10:53 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab budget,Punjab varsities,fund-starved universities
A one-time grant of Rs 50 cr has been announced for Punjabi University, Patiala, besides at least 6% hike in annual grant of Rs 88 crore.(HT File )

Reeling under fund crunch itself, the Punjab government on Saturday announced hike in grants to financially overburdened state universities, which are finding it difficult to even meet their routine expenses.

Finance minister Manpreet Badal in his budget speech also announced an additional one-time grant of Rs 50 crore to Punjabi University, Patiala, besides at least 6% hike in annual grant of Rs 88 crore.

The additional grant has come after almost a decade, a period during which the university has slipped into a financial mess. With a fiscal deficit of Rs 228 crore, the university had to borrow Rs 90 crore from banks to pay salaries.

Meanwhile, the government has enhanced the total grant-in-aid to Panjab University, Chandigarh, from Rs 33 crore to Rs 42.6 crore. This includes an additional grant of Rs 6 crore to help the varsity meet its past deficit. Rs 8 crore have been proposed for its constituent colleges.

Highlights
  • Rs 50-crore bailout to Punjabi University, Patiala
  • 6% hike in annual grant of six state universities
  • Panjab University grant increased from Rs 33 crore to Rs 42.6 crore
  • Rs 39-crore state cancer institute at Amritsar and Rs 45-crore tertiary cancer care centre at Fazilka
  • Free Wi-Fi in all government school, colleges
  • Rs 120 crore for constructing 1,597 class rooms in schools
  • Rs 10 crore for providing free sanitary napkins to girl students in Classes 6-12.

The budget also proposes to increase the grant to other state universities — Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar; Ludhiana’s Punjab Agricultural University and Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University; Guru Ravidas Ayurved University, Hoshiarpur; and Rajiv Gandhi Law University, Patiala — by at least 6%.

Meanwhile, an initial allocation of Rs 2 crore each has been made for Maharaja Agrasen Chair and Maharana Pratap Chair at Punjabi University. The total cost is Rs 7 crore each.

Free textbooks, Wi-Fi in schools

With an aim to increase school enrolment, Manpreet proposes to provide all textbooks for free from Classes 1 to 12. The move will cost the exchequer Rs 49 crore.

Manpreet also announced free Wi-Fi services in all government schools in association with private partners. Under the same facility, 23 government colleges have already been covered in the state. The remaining 25 will also get free Wi-Fi by July 2018, said the minister.

Meanwhile, Rs 50 crore have been earmarked to convert one school in each education block into a smart one with state-of-the-art facilities.

Besides constructing separate toilets for girls in all government schools, the government will also spend Rs 10 crore on providing free sanitary napkins to all girl students in Classes 6-12. Meanwhile, Rs 9 crore have been allocated for installing water purifiers in 1,500 schools and Rs 21 crore for installing green boards.

13% boost to health sector

With 13% increase in the plan outlay as compared to previous fiscal, the budget has proposed Rs 4,015 crore for primary and secondary health care services in 2018-19.

National Health Mission (NHM) will get a boost of Rs 776 crores, 18% higher than the last year’s allocation. The government will also set up new hospitals at Doraha in Ludhiana and Ghanaur in Patiala and upgrade the existing Bathinda Civil Hospital.

To provide immediate care to accident victims, the budget proposes to build Trauma Centres on important highways, for which Rs 20 crore have been earmarked. There is also a plan to strengthen 2,950 sub-centres as Health and Wellness Centres.

A Rs 39-crore state cancer institute at Amritsar and Rs 45-crore tertiary cancer care centre at Fazilka will also be constructed. Financial provision of Rs 25 crore has been made for the Cancer and Drug De-addicition Treatment Infrastructure Board (CADA) to support augmentation of cancer diagnostic and treatment infrastructure and implementation of new strategies for drug de-addiction.

While a medical college will also come up in Mohali this year, Rs 73 crore will be spent on upgrading Government Medical Colleges at Patiala and Amritsar. Health Minister Brahm Mohindra claims this is the biggest ever budget allocation for the health sector in Punjab.

Something for all

On increase in pensions, one of the biggest pre-poll promises of the Congress, the finance minister says in the budget document: “We have enhanced monthly pension to Rs 750 crore. I hope that as our resource position strengthens we will be able to raise it further.”

A new scheme — Mahila Shakti Kendra — has been approved in the budget for implementation up to 2019-20. The scheme will provide an interface for rural women to approach the government for availing their entitlements and for empowering them through awareness generation, training and capacity building.

For empowering backward classes, the budget mentions Punjab Cabinet decisions, including increase in quota of backward classes in educational institutions from 5-10% and increase in the annual family income limit from ₹6 lakh to Rs 8 lakh.

Also, Rs 860 crore have been allocated for post-matric scholarship scheme, up from ₹620 crore last year.

(with inputs from Patiala)

First Published: Mar 25, 2018 10:53 IST