Shimla: A strong road network, emphasis on infrastructure, health, education, employment and a life of self respect and dignity for the common man were the mainstay of the budget presented that would take the state forward to achieve the objective of having a developed and prosperous Himachal, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said.
Concluding the budget proposal discussion in the Vidhan Sabha, the chief minister said that it was ironic that hydro electric power, which had the potential to transform the sates economy and make it self-reliant, had been ignored by the earlier Congress government. â€œHardly any provision had been made by the previous government during the five years it was in powerâ€, he said.
His government in its very first year in office had made a provision of Rs 393 crore to harness hydropower, claimed Dhumal. It is important to take into account that 50 percent of the states revenue is being generated from hydel energy generated, he added.
Tearing through the oppositionâ€™s argument with some terming the budget as directionless and others calling it a copy of the central budget, the chief minister said that he failed to understand the argument being advanced.
â€œIf it is a copy of the central budget and at the same time is directionless then it implies that the central budget too is directionlessâ€, said Dhumal.
Laying the blame of the states huge debt burden on Congress, the chief minister said the party was largely responsible for the Rs 22,930 crores debt stress that started with an earlier congress government hiding facts. Then the government had fudged figures to present a deficit of Rs 8.69 crore before the 9th Finance Commission, where as the actual deficit was Rs 200 crore, he said.
â€œWe will place the factual figures before the 13th Finance Commission that will be coming to the state soon and put forth a demand for Rs 1098 crores loan, which is marked for capital investment to strengthen the states basic infrastructure and not for unproductive wasteful expenditureâ€, he claimed.
The government policy was not to tax the people but to bring about efficiency in the tax collection system and a scheme of 1 percent incentive to the department that overshoots its revenue target has been proposed in the budget, said Dhumal.
Countering the oppositions criticism about reducing VAT on liquor, the chief minister said that high prices of liquor in the state on one side was encouraging production of illicit liquor that was playing havoc with the health of the people and was also encouraging interstate smuggling because of the rate difference along the bordering states.
By attempting to bring prices of liquor at par with the adjoining states, it would help to put an end to smuggling, he said.
He said that the large forest cover of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and J & K could be considered as the lungs of the country.
â€œWe have standing forest wealth of over Rs 1.50 lakh crores and a case would be made out before the Planning Commission and the 13th Finance Commission to compensate the state with Rs 1000 crores annually for preserving the green cover. We will also try and make out a case for carbon credit revenues, he added.
Talking about special economic zones, Dhumal said that the state would not procure any land for these zones and would only act a facilitator for those interested in setting up a SEZ, he said.
â€œWe want to make it clear that as far as possible only barren land and not agriculture or horticulture land will be used for setting up SEZ as there is already a shortage of land in the stateâ€, said Dhumal.