Patna, March 16: A lame budget of a lame duck government — that in a nutshell was the reaction of chief minister Nitish Kumar, who is miffed at Pranab Mukherjee for “ignoring” Bihar.
“There is no thought given to checking inflation or regional imbalance,” he said.
Nitish, who watched the budget speech sitting in the anteroom of his chamber, said he had held talks with Mukherjee on increasing the grant for Bihar.
“Apparently nothing has been done for Bihar. I had pleaded for an increase in the special grants given to the state under the Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF). The increase has been marginal and the rise for Bihar will be a pittance. There appears to be no rise in the funds to Bihar,” he said.
The budget has increased the BRGF by 22 per cent to Rs 12,040 crore. Nitish has been pressing for a four-fold increase in the allocation — from Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 4,000 crore. He had even met Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia regarding this on March 5.
But the chief minister said his main demand for a substantial increase to the state under the BRGF had been “very marginally met — just a hike of about 15 per cent”.
| Nitish, Siddiqui |
If Nitish had been expecting a major contribution from the Centre for his ambitious agriculture roadmap, which aims at investing Rs 1.52 lakh crore by 2017, he was in for a major letdown. Though the funds for encouraging agriculture in eastern India has been hiked from Rs 400 crore to Rs 1,000 crore, Bihar’s share, which was a piffling Rs 50 crore last year, is expected to go up by about Rs 50 crore only.
“Now it may rise to Rs 100 crore. It is still nothing for a state which plans to implement its own agricultural roadmap,” he said. Given the state’s agricultural ambitions, bureaucrats said the budget should have set aside around Rs 1,000 crore for Bihar.
Nitish said Bihar did not figure anywhere in Mukherjee’s budget. “There has been no help even in smaller grants like aid for institutions. That also has gone to other states,” he said.
Besides, he said, there was no mention about any increase in the special package to Bihar to compensate for losses due to bifurcation.
Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi too termed the budget disappointing, saying it lacked direction. He said the increase in excise and service tax would have an inflationary effect.
Modi, who holds the finance portfolio in Bihar, said the budget had ignored the parliamentary panel recommendation to raise the income tax rebate bar to Rs 3 lakh. “There is no indication in the budget that the country plans to implement the Goods and Services Tax (GST) system from April 2012,” said Modi, who chairs the empowered committee on GST.
The RJD shared the disappointment. “There has been a very marginal rise in the BRGF and Mukherjee has hiked service tax and excise duty. The budget allots only Rs 3,031 crore for minority welfare. The Congress has made political capital by raking up the issue of the Rangnath and Sachar commissions (pertaining to economic and social condition of minorities). But it has only allotted a meagre amount for minority welfare,” said leader of the Opposition Abdul Bari Siddiqui.