Image for representational use only. Image Courtesy : Himachal Watcher
New Delhi: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on Saturday presented its second budget in the state Assembly as Finance Minister, promising to implement 10% quota for economically poor general category persons. He made several major announcements for different sections, including for the media.
In what is being seen as a bid to woo media ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-led government promised one laptop each to state and district-level recognised journalists in the budget. On the death of the serving journalists, the government will now give Rs 4 lakh against Rs 2 lakh earlier. On the death of retired journalists, the government will now give Rs 1 lakh instead of Rs 50,000.
Among other sectors, Thakur said power tariff for irrigation will be reduced from Rs 0.75 to Rs 0.50 per unit and 5,000 polyhouses are proposed to be set up for farmers under the new Mukhyamantri Nutan Polyhouse Yojana. Rs 3,921 crore in the budget is proposed for PWD and a new power policy is to be developed to harness the untapped hydro power potential of the state. The CM also announced free power connections for the poor.
He also announced the opening of 15 new Model Vidyan Kendras in the field of education, and promised to fill up vacant posts of teachers.
PTA and Para teachers will now get pay on a par with regular teachers. Minimum pay band plus grade pay and Dearness Allowance will be given to PTA para teachers who completed the three-year term on 1-10-2018. Announcement of 20% increase in honorarium of SMC teachers was made and Rs 7,598 crore on education is proposed to be spent in the budget.
A similar compensation amount will be given to the families of children and adults killed in accidents. Three cities- Shimla, Chandigarh and Kullu will be linked to heli taxi service under Phase-I within a month and a helipad will be set up in every assembly under Phase-II.
The honorarium given to elected representatives of Panchayati Raj institutions has also been hiked. A Gram Sabha member will now get an honorarium of Rs 250, sub-head of Rs 3,000, and Pradhan will get Rs 4,500. Panchayat committee member will be given Rs 4,000, Vice President will get Rs 5,000, President gets Rs 7,000.
Reacting to the budget, CITU State President Prem Gautam and State General Secretary Vijender Mehra termed it as anti-labour.
“The demand of the laborers is Rs 18,000 in wages. Instead, the increase of only Rs 25 in the wages of labourers is a pittance. In this budget, unorganised workers, such as Anganwadi, Mid Day Meal, Asha workers, MNREGA, Water conservators, Panchayat Chowkidars, Patwari Sahayaks, Block and Panchayat level have been completely ignored. They are not even being given the minimum wage declared by the government. This is the extreme limit of exploitation”, the CITU said.
Furthermore, they said that the demand for connecting workers' wages with the Consumer Price Index has been ignored. “Himachal Pradesh is the only state in the country other than five small states of the North East, where the minimum wage has not been linked to the Consumer Price Index. The chief minister's silence in the budget on this issue is very worrisome,” adding that the budget only caters to the interests of politicians, bureaucrats and contractors.
At a press conference, CPI(M) MLA Rakesh Singha said the budget was merely a “play of numbers” and will not give any gains in reality.
“The bitter truth in Himachal Pradesh is that income is not generated here and we have to rely on bank loans and Central government. My party and I believe that the Government of India has cut all avenues of the state to generate income by merging all our resources with the Central Government. Our forests, our water and power sector are being merged. Therefore, the budget presented today is just gimmick” Singha said.
He further said that this sort of a budget was presented last time as well and then also it was applauded but the result of it was evident as the two major sectors of the state -- farming and tourism -- saw a major decline.