Hyderabad: Telangana Finance Minister T. Harish Rao on Thursday presented the annual budget for 2021-22 estimated at around Rs 2.3 lakh crore, an increase of around 39% over the revised estimates of Rs 1.66 lakh crore for 2020-21. While the budgetary allocations attracted a mixed response from several quarters, opposition parties and unions said it was disappointing, especially in sectors like health, education, agriculture and welfare of SCs, STs and OBCs.
For 2021-22 the state’s revenue expenditure is estimated at Rs 1.69 lakh crore and the capital expenditure is at Rs 29,046.77 crore, with an estimated revenue surplus of Rs 6,743 crore and fiscal deficit of around Rs 45,509.60 crore.
As per advance estimates, Telangana’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) at current prices in 2020-21 was estimated at Rs 9,78,373 crore. Following the onset of the pandemic last year, the Finance Minister had stated that the the GSDP growth declined significantly from 13.5% in 2019-20 to 1.3% in 2020-21, but was “still far better than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that declined from 7.8% to -3.8% during the same period.”
The state government presented the budget with inflated figures compared to the last budget, said CPI(M) state secretary Tammineni Veerabhadram. He said it “will it address the employment and development related concerns considering the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government’s track record of maintaining a continued disproportionate difference between the budgetary allocations and actual spending over years.”
“Since 2014 the TRS government has been allocating large amounts for SCs, STs, minorities and other weaker sections of people every year but ends up spending between 30% to 40% lesser than the actual allocation. Although the government agreed that the agriculture sector saw a loss of around Rs 8,830 crore due to natural disasters, no allocation was made to compensate the farmers,” Veerabhadram pointed out. He said the government failed to address the unemployment crisis in the state by not making allocations for providing unemployment allowance to the youth.
Amid concerns of a second major COVID-19 wave the state government has decreased the share of allocations for the health sector from 3.38% of revised estimates in 2020-21 to 2.72% in 2021-22, an amount pegged at Rs 6,295 crore.
The allocations for the health sector were “highly disappointing”, said Bhupal, state president, United Medical and Health Employees Union. He told Newsclick that the government had failed to address the long-pending demand of regularisation of contractual nurses and para medical staff. “While some 30 medical workers, including doctors, died of COVID-19, the state government did not even announce ex gratia to their families. Furthermore, there was no talk on the recruitment of thousands of vacant posts in the public health departments,” he said, adding that there was no significant allocation towards improving health infrastructure in the state.
Congress MLA Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka also criticised the Budget, saying it was far removed from reality. “Telangana has been borrowing Rs 50,000 crore every year since the TRS came to power. The massive external borrowing is burdening the poorer sections of the people in the state,” he said, adding that the allocations for priority sectors such as health and education were lower than the national average.
The finance ministry proposed an allocation of Rs 11,735 crore for school education and Rs 1,873 crore for higher education in 2021-22, as against Rs 10,421 crore and Rs 1,723.27 respectively last year. In addition, the budget proposed a Rs 4,000 crore scheme to benefit government schools and another Rs 100 crore for improving the literacy rate.
However, teachers and students unions expressed concerns over the allocations. In a statement, the Telangana State United Teachers' Federation (TSUTF) said that the allocations for the education sector were “unreasonable” and would not suffice to improve infrastructure and recruit new teachers.
“The state government has again neglected to improve the infrastructure of state universities,” said R.L. Murthy of the Students Federation of India.