Gujarat government announces sops for poor, farmers in interim budget

Health insurance coverage limit under Mukhyamantri Amrutam Vatsaliya Yojana was enhanced from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. 

Gujarat government announces sops for poor, farmers in interim budget Image Courtesy: IANS

GANDHINAGAR: Gujarat deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel Tuesday presented a vote-on-account for first four months of the coming financial year, seeking approval of the Legislative Assembly for a Rs 64,255 crore interim budget.

Coming ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the budget included sops for the poor and the middle classes. The budget's size for the financial year 2019-20 was pegged at Rs 1,91,817 crore, however, as the vote-on-account was presented for the first four months due to the coming elections, the government sought approval for spending of Rs 64,255 crore without announcing any new scheme or project.

The revenue income estimated for 2019-20 is 1,54,885 crore against Rs 1,40,531 crore in 2018-19. The revenue expenditure was estimated at Rs 1,45,022 crore in 19-20 against Rs 1,39,153 crore in 18-19.

Patel, who holds the finance portfolio, said in his budget speech that in the last five years (2013-2017) Gujarat's average annual economic growth rate has been 9.9 per cent at constant (2011-12) prices, highest amongst the major states.

Patel also said that the state economy registered a growth of 11.2 per cent during 2017-18. Though he did not come out with new schemes, Patel announced enhancement of benefits under existing schemes.

Health insurance coverage limit under Mukhyamantri Amrutam Vatsaliya Yojana was enhanced from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. Sixty-eight lakh families are covered under the scheme.

The government also relaxed the income cap for availing of the insurance scheme from Rs 3 lakh per year to Rs 4 lakh. It announced waiver of unpaid principal, interest and penalty amount on electricity bills of Below Poverty Line consumers in urban areas, farmers, domestic consumers in rural areas and commercial power connections of small traders in rural areas.

This one-time waiver will benefit 6.74 lakh electricity consumers with unpaid dues of Rs 691 crore. Patel also announced formation of a Rs 500 crore revolving fund for timely disbursal of interest subsidy to farmers.

The government has taken up on "a mission mode" the work of identifying 40 lakh beneficiary farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna launched by the Union government, he said. Under the scheme, farmers will get Rs 6,000 per year as a direct financial assistance.

Fishermen will get enhanced diesel subsidy to Rs 15 per litre instead of the earlier Rs 12. It will benefit 10,677 fishing boat owners, the finance minister said.

The state government also increased widow pension by Rs 250 to 1,250, and removed the rule that a widow would not get pension once her son turns 21. Monthly honorarium of Anganwadi (child-care centre) workers was increased by Rs 900 to Rs 7,200 and that of Anganwadi helpers by Rs 450 to Rs 3,650.

The government also raised monthly honorarium of over 3,700 ASHA health workers by Rs 2,000 each. Nitin Patel told reporters later that a vote-on-account cannot introduce new schemes, but can increase amount of assistance in existing schemes.

As per the revised budget estimate for 2018-19, Fiscal Deficit stands at 2.31 per cent of GSDP, while it is estimated to be 1.08 per cent for 2019-20. Public debt in 2018-19 will be 16.16 per cent of GSDP while the government has kept a target of bringing it down to 15.76 per cent of GSDP.

However, the figure of debt was not given by the state finance department. The state's GSDP was Rs 13.15 lakh crore during 2017-18, a 14 per cent growth compared to the previous year, Patel said in the budget speech.'

"Gujarat with 5 per cent population has 7.8 per cent share in the GDP of the country....During 2017-18 the per capita income of the state at current prices was Rs 1,74,652, which is 12.6 per cent more than the previous year," he said.

"The per capita income of the state is 54.8 per cent higher compared to per capita income of the country," he added. "Our government has adopted a well-planned approach with long term vision for the development of the state," Patel said in his 25 page speech.

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