Sops galore for farmers, fishermen in Odisha Budget

Odisha govt in Rs 60,303-crore Budget announced free mobile handsets, health insurance to farmers and financial help to women self-help groups.

Updated: Feb 19, 2013, 23:39 PM IST

Bhubaneswar: In popular measures ahead of the next general elections, Odisha government in Rs 60,303-crore Budget announced free mobile handsets, health insurance to farmers, pre-paid SIM cards to fisherfolk, blanket to aged and financial help to women self-help groups and youth.

The state government for the first time also presented Rs 7,161.84-crore separate agriculture budget.

State Finance Minister Prasanna Acharya said the government has proposed to amend the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 in order to generate more revenue from the mineral sector.

With Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik already saying it could be the last Budget before the general elections, Acharya in Budget 2013-14 claimed that there is no new tax proposals.

Announcing a new programme, Biju Youth Empowerment Yojana, the state government has provided Rs 3 crore to give a monthly allowance of Rs 1,500 to at least 5,000 youths in each district and sub-divisional headquarters.

Similarly, Rs 2 crore has been earmarked to provide free mobile phones to at least 20,000 farmers under Digital Mandi Yojana.

Over 1 lakh fishermen would be provided with free mobile SIM cards with a fund of Rs 4.60 crore. The budget also provided Rs 72 crore for blankets at the rate of Rs 200 to each of the pensioners covered under social security network.

The budget has earmarked Rs 100 crore to help at least one lakh Women Self-Help Groups (WSHGs) with Rs 10,000 each during the year 2013-14. Similarly, each youth clubs would be provided with Rs 10,000 each.

Acharya also claimed the state government has not violated any norms of financial responsibility and budget management (FRBM).

He also said the government has proposed to amend Indian Stamp Act, 1899 in order to generate more revenue from mineral sector. He was critical of the Centre for not imposing Mineral Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) on mines owners making windfall profit.

The budget focused on infrastructure development. A new
project would be launched from 2013-14 in the name of State Highway Development Project to convert 5,000 km of state highways into double road in next three-four years.

Of the total requirement of Rs 3,000 crore, Rs 100 crore has been provided in 2013-14 budget. Similarly, Rs 1,650 crore has been provided for strengthening of power infrastructure by installation of 550 number of 33/11 KV stations.

Stating that the state remained neglected in rail connectivity, Acharya said for the first time Rs 100 crore has been provided for development of critical railway projects under PPP mode.

The state government is also proposing to go for market borrowing for equity participation in the Rs 8,000 crore expansion project of IB-valley Thermal Power Station (ITPS) of Odisha Power Generation Corporation (OPGC).

Meanwhile, opposition Congress described the budget has nothing new to help the needy people. "The new agriculture budget will not help the farmers," said Congress chief Whip Prasad Harichandan.

BJP legislature party leader K V Singhdeo said: "We have been demanding special schemes for farmers. As a result, the state government brought out this new agriculture budget".

"It is a mediocre budget though we welcome the new agriculture budget. However, it will not help the poor farmers of Odisha," CPI state secretary Dibakar Nayak said, while CPI (M) state secretary termed it as "anti-people".

"It is an attempt to cheat the people by making a new agriculture budget," said CPI (M) state secretariat member Santosh Das.

Samajwadi Party state president criticised the agriculture budget for not having any provision of pension for farmers and allowance for unemployed youths.