Sops for all in West Bengal budget (Lead)

March 22nd, 2010 - 10:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, March 22 (IANS) Apparently eyeing next year’s assembly polls, the West Bengal government Monday sharply hiked the outlay for minorities, promised rice at Rs.2 a kg to the lowest 20 percent of people above the poverty line and proposed an Urban Employment Scheme (UES) for youth.
Presenting the Left Front government’s last full budget ahead of the polls, regarded as the toughest for the combine in its uninterrupted rule since 1977, Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta announced wide-ranging sops hoping to touch a sympathetic chord with a vast majority of the people.

A highlight of the Rs.4 crore deficit budget is the scheme aimed at tapping the support of the urban youth in a state where unemployment figures have been spiralling every year and the government’s much publicised industrialisation drive hitting a speed breaker after stringent opposition protests on land acquisition.

Under the UES, unemployed youth in urban areas can be engaged either as a worker or as a supervisor for implementation or maintenance of any project of the state government or the municipality or municipal corporation concerned. The scheme has an initial outlay of Rs.250 crore.

The worker will be paid a daily wage of Rs.100 and supervisor Rs.120.

The plan outlay of the department of minorities’ affairs and madrasa education was more than doubled from Rs.121 crore to Rs.300 crore next year.

The state government had last month announced it would reserve 10 percent of government jobs for economically, socially and educationally backward Muslims by including them in the OBC (other backward classes) category.

While promising to continue distributing rice to people below poverty line through ration shops at a price of Rs.2 per kg, the minister said “depending on procurement of rice”, initiatives will be taken to expand the programme to cover the lowest 20 percent of the people living above the poverty line.

Dasgupta also proposed to increase monthly pensions of the aged, the disabled, widows, artisans, handloom weavers, farmers and fishermen from Rs.750 to Rs.1,000.

The tea gardens also had some good news.

“With an objective of incentivising the reopening of the closed gardens and investments in this (tea gardens) sector, I propose to extend the exemption from payment of (education) cess for a further period of one year and grant another one year time for liquidation of the arrear cess,” he said.

With sugar prices still exorbitant, Dasgupta announced that sugar would continue to be exempted from value added tax (VAT) up to March 31, 2011.

Films made in Bengali, Nepali and Santhali languages would now attract an entertainment tax of 2 percent from the existing rate of 10 percent.

The rate of sales tax on foreign liquor was raised to 37 percent, with an option to pay tax at the rate of 23 percent on maximum retail price.

Mobile phones costing over Rs.3,000 will be dearer, with the minister sharply hiking the rate of tax on them from four percent to 12.5 percent.

The total plan and non-plan receipts for 2010-11 will be Rs.76,432.07 crore, with an initial deficit of Rs.114 crore.

However, with Dasgupta proposing additional resource mobilisation of Rs.110 crore, the final deficit will come down to Rs.4 crore.

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