Congress stage walkout
Shimla: Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal kept the issue of reducing VAT on diesel and petrol open, assuring the house as he wound up the budget debate on Wednesday that the government would reduce it only if the adjoining states of Haryana and Punjab, which were charging below the approved floor rates, failed to make suitable corrections.
Not satisfied with the chief minister reply, opposition congress members staged a walkout.
Concluding the debate chief minister said that centre had fixed the floor rate of VAT on petroleum products at 20 percent but the neighbouring states were charging far less that was causing Himachal a revenue loss. The rate was as high as 27 percent in some states and there was need to maintain parity on this issue, he said.
Dhumal said that the centre had asked all states to maintain the floor rates and in case the neighbouring states failed to raise VAT rate, Himachal would also do the needful to bring parity.
Lashing out at the congress for alleging that the bus fares had not been reduced proportionately, Dhumal said that no Congress ruled state had reduced the fares while Himachal had reduced the fares by ten per cent providing relief to the passengers to the tune of Rs 60 crore.
Further, the Government had raised the budgetary allocation for HRTC by Rs 50 crore from Rs 70 crore to Rs 120 crore to sustain the public sector utility.
Dismissing the criticism of congress that the budget was directionless and anti-poor, as ill â€“conceived, Dhumal said that higher allocations for social sector, Agriculture and irrigation besides increase in daily wages and social security pension were indicators which reflected that the budget was growth oriented with focus on rural sector.
Similarly, the allocation under scheduled cast component plan which was raised from Rs 231 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 594 crore during the current year had been further raised to Rs 668 crore while the allocation for agriculture had been increased by 58 per cent and the endeavour of the government was to bring at number two after social sector.
Referring to power sector, Dhumal disclosed that seven hydropower projects with aggregate capacity of about 1000 MW being executed by the state power corporation would bring an annual revenue of Rs 1800 crore from 2012-13 onwards.
Taking credit for getting the plan size increased, Dhumal blamed the previous Congress Government for reduction plan and alleged that even sanctioned amount was not fully utilised. The Chief Minister claimed that while the Centre would not be able to achieve the targets for reducing the deficit fixed under the fiscal reforms and budget management (FRBM) act to 3.5 per cent of GDP, Himachal was close to achieveing the target.
Detailing the steps taken by the government to provide employment to people, Dhumal said that the figure of unemployed persons as reflected in live registers of employment exchanges did not give the correct picture as actual number of unemployed persons was about 7-lakh and not 11 lakh and taking other parameters into account it would further come down to 5-lakh.
Having a dig at Congress , Dhumal said while the opposition members were expressing concern over unemployment, the UPA government had curtailed the Industrial Package from 2013 to 2010 ,closing the doors for rapid growth of industry which generated employment.
Maintaining that there was no immediate option to meet the financial requirements except going in for borrowings until power sector and tourism started generating income, the chief Minister claimed that the ratio of debts was on decline and the percentage of actual money spent on development had gone up from 18 per cent to 29 per cent. However, there was a gradual improvement with the debt ratio to the SGDP declining from 77 percent in 2005 to 61 percent in 2008-09 and it was projected at 55 percent in 2009-10.
Immediately after the Chief Minister finished the reply, the leader of the opposition Vidya stokes was on her legs and said that several issued raised by her party members had not been replied and the entire opposition staged a walkout.
Dubbing the uncalled for walkout as manifestation of failure of Congress to play the role of effective opposition, Dhumal said that the congress members had a blurred vision and were trying to see the things through tainted glasses.
As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post.
Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.