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From free electricity to sops for seniors - WB govt presents

Press Trust of India  |  Kolkata 

Opting for populism with a slew of freebies and measures for social sector in its last full Budget before the Assembly polls next year, the West Bengal government on Monday proposed free electricity to those with quarterly consumption of up to 75 units and rolled out sops for senior citizens and unemployed youth.

Finance Minister Amit Mitra presented the budget for 2020-21 which has an outlay of Rs 2,55,677 with limited deficit of Rs eight crore.

With an eye on the 2021 Assembly polls and elections to 107 civic bodies to be held this year, he announced a slew of schemes for senior citizens, unemployed youth, rural households and the backward sections of the people.

In the elections, the ruling Trinamool Congress is likely to face a stiff challenge from the BJP after it won 18 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats from the state last year.

The Budget made an allocation of Rs 5,150 crore for 2020-21 primarily targetting the social sectors, and also for creating employment in MSMEs.

Mitra said the government has made allocations for opening new universities, welfare for the aged people belonging to SC and ST categories, workers in the unorganised sector, MSME sector, assistance to unemployed youth, tea garden workers, besides making provisions for providing free power to the poor and assistance for getting government jobs.

The Budget also proposed dispute settlement schemes with respect to VAT, CST, entry tax, settlement of disputes under the Motor Vehicles Act, waiver of interest on outstanding stamp duty and reduction of stamp duty on amalgamation of adjacent plots.

Mitra said in the current financial year, the state has been able to generate 9.11 lakh employment opportunities.

For 2020-21, the state government has projected tax revenue receipts of Rs 70,807 crore against the revised estimate of Rs 65,806 crore in 2019-20.

Mitra announced free electricity for consumers with quarterly consumption up to 75 units for the poor, similar to the waiver of power costs in New Delhi for those consuming up to 200 units, and also a scheme to build houses for all permanent tea garden workers.

The state government also proposed agricultural income tax waiver for tea gardens for the next two fiscals.

With an eye on SC and ST communities that forms the majority of the population in Junglemahal area, the Budget announced two schemes under which members of these communities above 60 years of age will get a pension of Rs 1,000 every month, if they are not beneficiary to any pension scheme.

Mitra also announced 'Karmasathi Scheme' where one lakh unemployed youth per year will get jobs and loans.

For the development of North Bengal where the TMC drew a blank in last Lok Sabha polls, the government has allocated Rs 710 crores.

The state allocated Rs 200 crore for the next fiscal for the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises parks and Rs 500 crore for the housing scheme for tea garden workers, named 'Chai Sundari'. The scheme will benefit around three lakh workers in 370 tea gardens in the state.

The state government has allocated substantial funds for the minority affairs, madrasah education, backward and tribal welfare totalling Rs 5,340 crore.

For the health and family welfare, the Budget has made a provision of Rs 5,608 crore, while panchayat and rural development department has been allocated Rs 21,000 crore.

Mitra said Rs 5,900 crore has been allocated to push the rural economy further.

Regarding tax receipts during 2020-21, the state has estimated that revenue from SGST is expected to touch Rs 33,153 crore, followed by Rs 12,731 crore from state excise and Rs 7,537 crore from sales tax.

Mitra said in his speech that law and order scenario in West Bengal remained peaceful during the year despite "grave provocation" to disrupt the harmony of the state.

He allocated Rs 1,300 crore for the home and hill affairs department for the next financial year.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hailed the budget as a "pro-people Budget" prepared keeping in mind all sections of the society.

"We have presented a people's Budget without having to sell any of the state PSUs. Simultaneously, we've spread smiles across communities. The Centre can, for a change, help make these smiles broader by working with the states. We'll let the people decide which Budget is better," she said in a tweet.

Banerjee alleged that the Centre has denied the state government Rs one lakh crores in various segments.

She urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the union government to work along with opposition parties and refrain from the "politics of vendetta" to revive the economy.

Banerjee referred to the recent comments made by the RBI on the economy and said the union government should look after it, instead of being busy in the politics of hatred.

"The prime minister should take everybody along. If needed, he should hold discussion with opposition parties," Banerjee said.

Leader of opposition Abdul Mannan of the Congress alleged that the state government is trying to "bribe people in order to win the next elections. Jugglery of figures has been presented in the Budget."

His views were echoed by BJP legislative party leader Manoj Tigga.

He said the government is trying to "fool the people" and wondered how it would get so much of money to finance the "doles" proposed in the Budget.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, February 10 2020. 21:42 IST