JAMMU: While winding up the Budget Speech discussion in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, Finance Minister, Dr. Haseeb Drabu has said the budget presented by the government has been formulated for the specific local requirements and would ensure that the benefits percolate to every section of the society.
The Minister said that budget has been formulated in such a manner so that it provides succour to not only the people, but also benefits entrepreneurs businessmen practising various trades in the state. “Care has been taken to make it comprehensive, by exploring the possibilities of putting back the sagging economy of the State on the trails and also catalyzing the business environment in the State which has witnessed a slump post-floods”, he added.
Referring to the proposed out sourcing of the Lakhanpur Toll Post, the Minister said that by privatising it we would be getting the additional revenues besides checking the menace of corruption. He said the business community has also been pressing for the same and it would go a long way in catalyzing the business related activities in the State.
“Our duty is to protect the State’s Special Taxation Powers”, the Minister said while referring to the General Sales Tax (GST) regime. He said ‘we have to create a conducive atmosphere so that businessmen can carry out their trade without hassles’.
“We do not need any special assistance if power losses are managed”, Dr. Drabu maintained while referring to the presentation of a separate power budget. We are looking on reducing the T&D losses then only we can make a head away in reducing the electricity duty thereby giving the consumers much needed relief. “Under the power reforms the Jammu and Kashmir State Power Development Corporation (JKSPDC) would be offering shares to the public and we hope that people would receive dividends on the same which would in future take care of entire electricity bills.
Referring to the Government’s initiative of preserving, propagating and professionalizing the traditional handicrafts which go a long way in contributing their bit in economy and job-employment generation, the Minister said that craft economy will be made buoyant and to revive it courses of MBA in craft management would be introduced in the twin Universities of the State. “Unless we change the basis of the craft economy, we will not able to revive and revitalize this important aspect of our heritage and culture”, he added.
“We have 7 lakh small and micro-enterprises involving 14 lakh people. Through technology inputs, market incentives and proper branding we hope to encourage natural growth in the handicraft sector, thereby giving employment to more than 21 lakh people associated with this sector”, Dr. Drabu maintained.
Terming tourism as one of the mainstays of the State’s economy, the Minister said that we will be taking the necessary steps to ensure its augmentation so that it also contributes in the revenues of the State. He said focussed attention would be paid to promote Jammu as an independent tourist destination. “Pilgrim Circuit would also be developed in Jammu by virtue of which the devotees can pay obeisance at various shrines of the division which would be properly augmented by various logistics and infrastructure development”, the Minister added.
On Public Enterprises, Dr. Drabu said that government will initiate steps for reviving these enterprises by bringing them under a common ambit so that their resources can be pooled in a coordinated way and the concept of corporate set up can be introduced. This would facilitate the private investor developing the much needed confidence in investing in these enterprises which would in turn contribute immensely in the economy of the State, he maintained.
Referring to the relief and rehabilitation package for the flood affected, Dr. Drabu announced that from April 1, a 3-phased rehabilitation plan will be launched starting with restoration of livelihood followed by restoration of business and restoration of houses and assets. It is the top priority of the government to ensure that the people, who were affected by the September deluge start their normal business and day-to-day activities as soon as possible, he said.
Dr. Drabu while referring to the development of backward areas said that Government would accelerate their growth by carrying full-fledged programmes as special projects, so that these areas are developed at par with the developed pockets of the State.
“The agriculture sector would be revived and developed on modern and scientific basis by introducing certain new and traditional farm practices and in this regard the Khul Development Programme would be introduced on a large scale so that proper irrigation facilities are provided to the farmers round the year which would in turn increase the agriculture productivity and yield thereby contributing in making the State a prosperous agrarian belt”, the Minister said that this would also result in making the state economically strong.
Responding to the demands of legislators for increasing the CD Fund, the Minister said that a mechanism would be framed in future, for equitable development of every constituency, which would be based on the requisite para meters of area, population, accessibility and efficiency. “We will see that a scheme is framed where area, population and efficiency in the constituency is given due consideration for releasing additional funds besides the normal CD Fund”, he added.
Dispelling the doubts being created about privatization of the State Motor Garages, the Minister said that the organization would be empowered, so that employees would be getting incentives and would also increase the efficacy in working of the same. He also negated the news report that was circulated in certain media about the reduction in retirement age of the employees.
“The Dal forms one of the important part of our culture and its preservation is one of the top priorities of the Government as well as the people and J&K Diaspora and it is in this regard we would be floating Dal Development bond for its restoration. It would be a pilot project to involve the non-resident state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir by leveraging their professional competencies, financial strength, and emotional equity”, Dr. Drabu elaborated.
Announcing certain additional incentives, the Finance Minister said that he respects the sensitivity of the House towards widows, disabled and the destitute and announced merger of various pension schemes for widows available under Sate and Central Social Welfare initiatives. He announced a hiked pension of Rs. 1000 per month for widows. He also announced Rs. 1000 per month for disabled persons having disability of more than 60%.
In addition to these welfare measures, Dr. Drabu also announced that the Government will try and explore possibility of ensuring that grown up girls get financial assistance at the age of 17 or 21 years depending upon their choice. In his budget speech under the gender welfare initiative, the Finance Minister had proposed to contribute Rs. 1000 per month on behalf of every new born child for the next 14 years and on reaching 21 years, she would receive Rs. 6.5 lakhs.
Dr. Drabu also announced three more model business villages of Rajmah, Mango and Apricot in the state which would further accelerate the agriculture and horticulture related activities besides creating an integrated business infrastructure and foster a culture of modern business practices in these villages.
He also announced an ethnographic village to preserve the rich cultural heritage of Kashmiri Pandits at Martand-Anantnag and a village for Gaddi-Sippi tribe in Jammu.
The Minister also announced for taking the necessary steps for upgrading the exiting press club in Jammu besides establishing another one in the Summer Capital, Srinagar.