Tripura Budget: Reflection of an Alternative Approach
ON February 20, Bhanulal Saha, the Finance Minister of the Tripura Left Front government, presented the budget proposals for 2017-18 in the Legislative Assembly. The budget, having no new tax proposal, puts priority on education, health care, agriculture, rural development and social welfare to usher in all-round development of the state, especially laying emphasis on the well-being of all sections of working and middle class people.
Saha, in his budget speech, said that the lack of infrastructure is the primary bottleneck not only for Tripura, but for all the states in the Northeast. He urged upon the central government to provide adequate funds for the development of infrastructure in the region. He also expressed displeasure over the Centre’s decision to do away with Tripura’s special category state status at a time when it deserves the Centre’s generous support for infrastructure development.
This budget has been prepared in the backdrop of the catastrophic demonetisation, recessing growth rate in the world economic situation as well as in Indian economy, abolition of the Planning Commission, and aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal economic policies by the Modi government. These had a negative effect on infrastructure development throughout the country. He also referred to the deprivation of Tripura of its due allocation of Rs 10,000 crore by the 13TH Finance Commission.
Explaining resource constraints due to the Centre’s non-cooperation, Saha said that though the 14TH Finance Commission fixed 42 per cent of the central taxes to be shared by the states, the central government is releasing far less than that. Out of Rs 4,837 crore due in 2014-15, the central government released only Rs 2,330 crore. Similarly, out of Rs 5,306 crore assessed, the state got only Rs 4,355 crore in 2015-16. Out of Rs 6,552 crore in the current financial year, only Rs 5,189 crore is expected to be received by the state. The sum total of the deprivation in the last three financial years stand at Rs 5,108 crore. This quantum is certainly a big one for a resource-starved small state like Tripura, Saha said.
Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, while commenting on the state budget, said it was one of the best budgets for carrying forward the ongoing development projects and a welfare budget for the poor, downtrodden and toiling masses. We would have been satisfied if we could place here a bigger budget with many more development projects. But, the chief minister said, the main hurdle before us is the limitation of resources.
The state, hardly having any potential resource sector for revenue collection and largely dependent on the allocation from the Centre which fails to come out of its political narrowness to sincerely address Tripura’s crying needs, has set an example of pro-people budget to ensure an all-round development of the state.
The total size of this year’s budget is of Rs 15,956.56 crore including deficit amount of Rs 198 crore. The deficit may be managed by augmenting tax collection, compressing non-plan expenditure, taking austerity measures and additional resource mobilisation. This year’s budget quantum is 6.79 per cent higher than that of the revised budget last year and the growth rate is estimated at 4.66 per cent. Out of the total budgetary provision, percentage of head-wise resource mobilisation is estimated as under: central allocation – 38.33%, loan – 10.18%, state’s share on central taxes – 28.56%, state’s own revenue – 8.08%, non-plan assistance from the Centre – 11% and others – 3.80%.
On the expenditure side, the minister said that the highest allocation has been made in education (21.23%), followed by public works (11.51%), rural development (9.96%), home affairs (9.07), agriculture (5.37%) and health (4.85%).
1. The budget proposes to increase subsidy for PDS oil and pulses by Rs 15 per month from Rs 50 to Rs 65 with effect from April 1, 2017. It will benefit all ration card holders and will cost the government Rs 9.97 crore additionally a year.
2. The present rate of boarding house stipend for SC/ST students would be enhanced from the existing Rs 46 to Rs 55 per boarder per day.
3. Grant for the existing 25 state-funded pension schemes and state-contributed three national pension schemes would be increased by Rs 100 per month per beneficiary. This will benefit 3,25,000 beneficiaries.
4. Five new pension schemes for folk artistes, carpenters, blacksmiths, potters and harijons would be introduced for the families having no govt employee and belonging to the Scheduled Caste at a monthly rate of Rs 700 per beneficiary. This is likely to benefit 9,000 people.
5. The ration money for state police, TSR, watch and ward staff of jails, fire service personnel and Home Guards would be increased by Rs 100 from the existing Rs 700 per month and the honorarium to SPOs would be increased by Rs 500 to Rs 5,656 per month.
6. The budget proposes to enhance the subsidy available under the Swavalamban Scheme from the existing amount of Rs 75,000 to Rs 1,00,000 per project.
7. The government proposes to provide Rs 150/- per day per trainee during training programme under the Skill Development scheme.
8. Quantum of MLA Area Development Scheme is to be increased by Rs 5 lakh from the existing amount of Rs 30 lakh per year.
9. As a welfare measure, the state government has decided to extend the benefit of family pension to divorcee daughters of the state government pensioners.
10. The state government has decided to revise the pay structure and pension for different categories of employees and pensioners of the state for which a provision of Rs 600 crore has been earmarked in the budget for 2017-18.
11. The budget proposes to offer bicycles to each of the 20,000 girl students free of cost in this financial year and set up two new degree colleges in Udaipur and Panisagar.