Electricity to housing, West Bengal govt rolls out sops ahead of polls

Ahead of Assembly elections in 2021, West Bengal on Monday announced in its Budget free electricity for consumers with quarterly consumption up to 75 units and a scheme to build houses for all permanent tea garden workers. 

State Finance Minister Amit Mitra presented a Budget of nearly Rs 255,677 crore, an increase of about 7.44 per cent over the last year. The state’s outstanding debt has increased to nearly Rs 4.75 trillion, an increase of about 10 per cent against the revised estimates of FY20. 

The state exceeded its state tax revenue target for FY20 at Rs 65,806 crore, as against the Budget estimates of Rs 65,546 crore, according to the revised estimates for the year. Over the past few years, West Bengal has rolled out a slew of tax reforms including, digitalisation of taxation. 

The free electricity scheme will benefit nearly 3.5 million families and an outlay of Rs 200 crore. The state has also earmarked Rs 2,500 crore for old age pension scheme for people belonging to scheduled caste. 

For unemployed youth, the state has proposed Rs 500 crore as soft loan and subsidy for income generating schemes up to Rs 2 lakh. The state has proposed an allocation of Rs 500 crore for construction of houses for permanent workers in tea gardens. 

The state also rolled out a number of settlement schemes for taxpayers, including option to settle VAT, CST and other taxes that are due by depositing 25 per cent of disputed tax by March 31. According to Mitra, under the settlement scheme introduced in December 2019, nearly Rs 1,200 crore could be collected, benefitting nearly 30,000 taxpayers. Still, more than 25,000 disputed cases are pending. The state has also up with waiver scheme of penalty on outstanding motor vehicles dues, waiver of interest on outstanding stamp duty, waiver of agriculture income tax in tea gardens, reduction of stamp duty on amalgamation. 

Mitra said: “India’s GDP growth rate has touched its lowest — it has come down to 5 per cent in 2019-20, which is lowest during the past 11 years. In comparison, the growth in GDP in Bengal has reached 10.4 per cent, which is double the growth rate of India,” said Mitra.Also, the state received close Rs 4.45-trillion worth investments in large industries in five years of Bengal Business Summit. Also, in the last eight years, nearly Rs 22,267 crore has flowed in as foreign capital in the state, he said.

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