Delhi gets please-all budget ahead of pollsMarch 24th, 2008 - 10:12 pm ICT by admin
New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) With assembly elections due this year, Delhi Finance Minister A.K. Walia presented a Rs.202 billion ($5 billion) budget Monday, that seeks to please all residents with new schemes for all utilities and no fresh taxes. Proposals to enhance the fleet size of state buses for city transport, capacity additions in water and electricity, improving health and education facilities, a new Metro line and seven new over-bridges are part of Walia’s fifth consecutive budget for the city-state.
The budget also provides an outlay of Rs.11.89 billion towards infrastructure for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in 2010, against Rs.4.61 billion in the previous budget.
“A number of flyovers and new road corridors having high legacy value are being constructed to facilitate the flow of traffic, particularly connecting and leading to the games venues,” the finance minister said in his 80-minute speech.
Amidst disruptions by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Walia told the assembly that Delhi’s economic growth for 2006-07 registered a 12 percent growth against the national average of 9.6 percent.
“The growth rate indicates that Delhi has a strong and vibrant economy,” he said and added that the growth momentum will be sustained with a host of new schemes and plans. “This budget will ensure all round development of India’s capital.”
But the BJP slammed the budget, saying the state government did not come out with any measures to check prices of essential commodities and this had affected the average resident the most.
“It is a hopeless budget. The people’s woes have not been taken care of at all. They will teach the Congress a lesson during the upcoming assembly elections,” said state BJP chief Harshvardhan, who goes by one name.
The budget holds significance for Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit-led Congress party government, which will seek re-election seven months later when the term of the current assembly expires in November.
“The budget will bring a sea change on all fronts in the city. It will help Delhi to become a world class city in an absolute real sense of the term,” Dikshit told reporters outside the state assembly soon after the budget presentation.
While the budget has not proposed any new taxes, it has reduced the value added tax (VAT) on many items such as sweets, savories and sweetmeats, embroidered clothes and several electrical appliances and lamps.
Importantly, the stamp duty on the registry of property has been reduced from 5 percent to 3 percent for men and from 3 percent to 2 percent for women, while meeting the long-pending demand to lower share transfer tax.
The non-delivered share transactions will invite a tax of 0.002 percent, against 0.01 percent at present, while the tax on futures and options trading will be lowered from 0.01 percent to 0.002 percent, Walia said.
Disabled people will get an unemployment allowance of Rs.1,000 per month instead of the existing Rs 600 and pension for senior citizens and widows has been hiked to Rs.1,000 from Rs 600.
Both will be effective from April 1, 2008.
The budget has also allocated Rs.27 billion for local bodies, Rs. 8.19 billion for the new metro rail project from Shahdara to Dilshad Garden and Rs.6.41 billion for the Delhi Transport Corp, which runs the city’s public transport system.
“The average daily ridership of Delhi Metro Rail Corp (DMRC) is 700,000. I am happy to announce that the Metro is going ahead with Phase-II construction very rapidly,” he said.
“The DTC fleet is being modernized and expanded with the purchase of 1,402 low-floor busses, 750 semi low-floor busses, 600 air-conditioned low-floor busses, 250 air-conditioned semi-low floor busses and 1,000 standard busses by March 2009.”
With the mercury rising and residents of Delhi already facing electricity and water problems, Walia also promised new projects in these areas with projects for new water treatment unit and pacts with neighbouring states.
A fund of Rs.7.43 billion has been earmarked for development and sanitation services of unauthorised colonies - a major vote bank that has traditionally been voting for the Congress party.
Walia also announced that a National Law School will be set up at Dwarka in the south-west of the city, while the Kasturba Polytechnic Institute at Pitampura in west Delhi will also be upgraded to an engineering college for women.
He also announced a new hospital-cum medical college at Dwarka at an estimated cost of Rs.3.5 billion, and a 500-bed new block at Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital in east Delhi with an investment of Rs.520 million.
Tags: assembly elections, capacity additions, city transport, commonwealth games, congress party, education facilities, finance minister, fleet size, flyovers, growth momentum, improving health, legacy value, metro line, minute speech, party government, sheila dikshit, state buses, transport capacity, vibrant economy, walia