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‘Doer’ budget in double-poll year

- State tries to balance big-ticket infrastructure with people pleasers
Finance minister Rajendra Prasad Singh arrives at the Assembly to present his maiden state budget and (right) chief minister Hemant Soren and leader of Opposition Arjun Munda at a luncheon hosted on the House premises after Friday’s proceedings. Pictures by Prashant Mitra

Ranchi, Feb. 21: The Hemant Soren ruling coalition today tabled the state’s annual budget for 2014-15 in a tightrope balance between urban and rural priorities ranging from roads and power plants to IT parks and new medical colleges on the third day of the ongoing Assembly session.

True to finance minister Rajendra Prasad Singh’s promise, the budget amounting to Rs 50,387.70 crore focuses on new roads, IT parks, at least seven medical colleges, power plants at Tenughat, Patratu and Garhwa, interest cut on Kisan Credit Cards, urban housing scheme for the poor under Rajiv Awas Yojana and more.

Also, no new taxes have been imposed perhaps in a concession to the state’s double poll year.

Holistic infrastructure apart, do-gooders include more cash support to families with yearly income of or below Rs 72,000 having a member undergoing treatment for any of 17 listed critical diseases, 2 per cent interest waiver on Kisan Credit Cards for farmers and on bank loans for women entrepreneurs and Aadhaar-enabled direct funds transfer for girl students and sahiyas to buy bicycles.

Prestigious standalone projects for which allocations have been made include a new building for Jharkhand Assembly, a new high court building and district administration offices at Deoghar, Hazaribagh, Giridih, Daltonganj, Garhwa and Chaibasa, to be undertaken by building construction department.

HRD department allocations also propose setting up one women’s college in each of the 24 districts.

But when it comes to large-scale development projects, it is clear the state is making roads its priority. A whopping 16 per cent has been allocated to overhaul state roads with road construction department getting an allocation of Rs 4,225 crore.

“Allocations have been made keeping in mind all strata with focus on the poor and marginalised,” said finance minister Singh, who read out his maiden budget speech around noon.

Finance secretary A.P. Singh, who played a major role in drafting the budget and was assisted by additional finance secretary Aradhana Patnaik, said they hoped for effective funds utilisation.

“We have a two-pronged development strategy. If there are big-ticket infrastructure plans, there are provisions such as 2 per cent interest waiver for farmers and women businessmen, jump in aid from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh for treatment of critical diseases for poor persons and so on,” he said.

The state’s total revenue receipts will be Rs 43,443.75 crore, which includes tax to the tune of Rs 11,812.68 crore and non-tax revenue amounting to Rs 4,966.99 crore, an increase of 17 per cent compared to 2013-14 fiscal.

The state is likely to get Rs 10,878.61 crore as share from central tax and Rs 1,851.41 crore from the Thirteenth Finance Commission as well as Rs 15,785.47 crore from central assistance and sponsored schemes.

The rest of the funds, over Rs 6,900 crore, are state borrowings from financial institutions such as World Bank, RBI, Nabard and others.

The 2014-15 budget includes a plan size of Rs 26,754.97 crore, including proposed allocations from state and central funds. The non-plan size include Rs 23,632.73 crore. While plan funds are meant for development work, non-plan ones are mainly expenditure on salaries and establishment costs.

Later, speaking to the media, finance minister Singh explained how the roundabout figure of 36 per cent utilisation of state plan allocations in current fiscal 2013-14 would impact the proposed budget for 2014-15.

“We aim for utilisation in current fiscal to be around 80 per cent by March 31, 2014. Less fund utilisation results in very less or almost zero fiscal deficit in the current fiscal. So, there won’t be extra financial liability in next fiscal (2014-15), for which budget was tabled today, but exact figures can be accessed only by or after March 31,” he said.

As of now, of state plan allocations of Rs 16,800 crore in 2013-14, only around Rs 6,000 crore could be utilised by various government departments.

However, in the Assembly, MLAs were more interested in matters other than numbers.

Even as finance minister Singh was reading out his 40-minute budget speech, BJP members raised slogans and demanded a special probe into the alleged role of several JMM MLAs in the 2012 Rajya Sabha cash stash case.

The BJP’s demands were based on a media report alleging that as many as 17 JMM MLAs, with the notable exception of chief minister Hemant Soren, had accepted bribes from the 2012 Rajya Sabha aspirants, industrialists R.K. Agarwal and Pawan Dhoot.

BJP MLAs said that as Assembly Speaker Shashank Shekhar Bhokta’s name also figured on the list, a special investigation team should be formed immediately. The House was adjourned twice in the first half.

Bhokta argued the House could not be stalled on the basis of a newspaper report and that the CBI was already probing the case. But, BJP members were not satisfied.

At times, the JMM members also entered the Well of the House to demand local residents’ policy.