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Guessing game on hasty budget
- Officials race against time; deal to extend Assembly session

Ranchi, Feb. 20: The state government is going to present a hurriedly prepared budget, put together in less than two weeks, claim officials involved in the exercise.

Since the central budget had not been passed, officials pointed out, there was no way of knowing how the large number of centrally-sponsored schemes and grants would fare. The budget document, therefore, had been prepared on the basis of arbitrary hypotheses, they added.

“First, we were asked to prepare a vote-on-account. But midway through the exercise, we were suddenly instructed to prepare a full-fledged budget document and that too in less than two weeks,” said a disgruntled official.

The third budget to be presented in the state is likely to be a deficit budget for the first time. The two earlier budgets were surplus budgets. The deficit this time, according to one estimate, is likely to be in the region of Rs 130 crore but the state government does not plan to impose fresh taxes, it is learnt.

The state government today bowed to Opposition pressure and agreed to extend the budget session of the Assembly beginning tomorrow. Indications are that a formal decision to this effect will be taken on Saturday after the governor’s address to the House in what is going to be the first session of the new calendar year.

The government had come in for sustained criticism for holding short Assembly sessions. The Opposition had threatened to both boycott and disrupt the session, if their demand for a longer session was turned down.

Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari said he received a telephone call from chief minister Arjun Munda. The chief minister, he said, had called to convey his willingness to extend the budget session. The subject will come up before the business advisory committee, which will meet after the governor’s address.

The Opposition, taken aback by the sudden development, remained sceptical though. “I don’t understand how this is being done now. However, it is a welcome step, if the government’s intentions are honest. I will request the Speaker to give adequate time to all the parties to express their views on the budget,” said leader of the Opposition Stephen Marandi.

The Speaker also confirmed that the budget is yet to be approved by the cabinet. It will be placed in the House in anticipation of the cabinet approval.

However, the relevant documents have been sent to the Raj Bhavan for 'final approval'.

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