Rice sops to prove costly in Chhattisgarh budget (Lead)

February 9th, 2009 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyRaipur, Feb 9 (IANS) Chhattisgarh’s Bharatiya Janata Party government Monday presented a Rs.222.11 billion (Rs. 22,211 crore) budget which levies no new taxes for the 2009-10 fiscal. The budget has a deficit of Rs.11.85 billion (Rs. 1,185 crore).

In the maiden budget of his second term, Chief Minister Raman Singh announced a pro-poor stimulus package, including a two-tier low-price rice scheme that envisages providing rice at Re.1 per kg to 700,000 families and at Rs.2 per kg to about three million families living below poverty line (BPL).

The scheme under the Chief Minister’s Food Assistance Programme will cost the state exchequer Rs.14.58 billion as the 3.7 million families are entitled for 35 kg rice per month.

The scheme is a part of electoral commitments made by the BJP government in the run-up to the state assembly elections in November last year.

Raman Singh, who also holds the finance portfolio, announced that small traders with annual turnover of less than Rs.1 million will be exempted from professional tax. Also, bio-fuel has been made tax free and value added tax (VAT) on steel-fabricated items has been slashed to four percent from the existing 12.5 percent.

The budget size of Rs.222.11 billion is 12.5 percent higher than the current fiscal’s revised estimate of Rs.197.46 billion.

The social sector outlay has been increased by 19 percent to Rs.99.91 billion, of which 16 percent will be spent on education, four percent on health and two percent on drinking water.

“I am confident of achieving the budgetary targets despite the global economic recession… Fiscal discipline will be strictly enforced and a robust mechanism for expenditure tracking and outcome monitoring will be put in place,” Raman Singh told reporters.

The opposition Congress, however, slammed the BJP government for presenting a populist budget to impress voters with an eye to the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

“A huge money, which had to be spent on infrastructure projects, has been diverted to populist schemes such as rice scheme. It will surely halt development,” state Congress unit general secretary Ramesh Warlyani said.

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