Punjab Budget: Govt to waive off loans worth Rs 1,186 cr of 113k farmers

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh speaks on Covid-19 issue, in Chandigarh.

The Amarinder Singh-led government in Punjab on Monday presented its last budget with a total size of Rs 1,68,015 crore for 2021-22, making bulk of its provisions for agriculture, urban development, water resources, health and other sectors.

Dedicating the state budget to the farmers who are protesting against the Centre's three farm laws, Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal decided against levying any fresh taxes in the state which will go to the Assembly polls early next year.

Announcing the next phase of the Congress-led government's flagship programme 'crop loan waiver scheme', Badal announced an allocation of Rs 1,712 crore in which Rs 1,186 crore of 1.13 lakh farmers and Rs 526 crore of landless farm workers will be waived.

Already, the state government has given a debt relief of Rs 4,624 crore to 5.83 lakh small and marginal growers.

Among major Budget proposals, Badal announced implementation of sixth Pay Commission's recommendations for the government employees from July and a Rs 3,780 crore scheme --'Kamyaab Kisan Khushaal Punjab' for farmers.

The Budget also proposed another dose of crop loan waiver, Rs 200 crore for crop diversification programme, doubling of old-age pension and raising the amount under the Ashirwad scheme and employment for youth.

With a speech laced with some couplets, Badal also announced a free travel facility for women in th state-owned undertaking buses in a please-all Budget.

During the Budget speech, two Akali Dal legislators Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal and Dilraj Singh Bhundar staged a walkout from the House for not proposing anything for farmers who commit suicide.

After sometime, AAP legislators also stormed into the well of the House and staged a walkout over the rising state debt.

In an announcement for the state government employees who have been seeking payment of their arrears, Badal said a provision of Rs 9,000 crore has been made in the Budget for the sixth Punjab Pay Commission.

Expecting the submission of the report of the Pay Commission soon, Badal said the recommendations of the pay panel will be implemented from July 1 this year.

I also announce to pay the arrears, if any, in a staggered manner of which the first installment shall be paid in October 2021 and second installment in January 2022, said Badal in his speech.

Stating that the well-being and prosperity of the farmers was the central theme of the Congress-led government, Badal announced a new scheme 'Kamyaab Kisan Khushaal Punjab' worth Rs 3,780 crore, aimed to improve the income of farmers.

Under this scheme, some key initiatives are proposed like fixing base price for horticulture crops and payment of deficiency price as compensation, two new schemes to mitigate the risk of producers, agricultural marketing innovation research and intelligence centre to assist the farmers in fetching better return through marketing intelligence reports etc, said Badal.

With this scheme to be implemented in next three years, an outlay of Rs 1,104 crore has been proposed for 2021-22.

An amount of Rs 7,180 crore was provided towards free subsidy to farmers. The state government in the last four years had given free power worth Rs 23,851 crore, said Badal.

The minister also announced to raise old age pension from Rs 750 per month to Rs 1,500 per month and increase the amount under the Ashirwad scheme from Rs 21,000 to Rs 51,000 and will be implemented from July.

Under Ashirwad scheme, financial assistance is provided for the wedding of Scheduled Caste women, daughters of widows of any caste and SC widows.

Both these were part of the poll promises of the Congress before coming to power in 2017.

In the budget, Badal said the state government intended to recruit against one lakh vacancies in a phased manner. The government will fill 48,989 posts in the first phase and complete the remaining recruitments as per available vacancy position during 2021-22, he stated.

So far, the state government was able to facilitate employment to 16.29 lakh youth till date and aims at facilitating employment to another 10 lakh youth in next year for which the budgetary allocation of Rs 428 crore has been made, he said.

To promote Punjabi language, Badal also proposed doubling award money from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh for the Punjabi Sahit Ratan Award and from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh for the Shiromani Award given to various writers, poets, musicians, journalists, etc.

As a tribute to freedom fighters, the FM also proposed increasing the monthly pension from Rs 7,500 to Rs 9,400.

Giving a push to urban development, a hike of 68 per cent in allocation for urban infrastructure at Rs 7,192 crore was made for next fiscal.

A sum of Rs 3,822 crore has been set aside for strengthening the health infrastructure, said Badal adding the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored the importance of health infrastructure and related services.

A 40 per cent increase in the allocation for water resources at Rs 3,214 crore has been made as the state government is committed to raise the canal water facility.

Badal proposed a revenue deficit of Rs 8,622 crore and fiscal deficit of Rs 24,240 crore for the next fiscal.

On outstanding debt position, Badal said the debt is likely to be Rs 2,73,703 crore by the end of March 2022 as against Rs 252,880 crore for March 2021.

He said he attempted to limit borrowings to the extent of 4 per cent of the gross state domestic product.

Badal slammed the Centre over the farm laws and said he dedicated this budget to the farmers of India and salute their inspirational struggle that is already on its way to acquiring a legendary status.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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