Jammu: “This budget is the most significant budget of all the four financial statements presented by me in the legislature since 2015,” declared Haseeb Drabu, J&K’s finance minister, after presenting the state budget for the financial year 2018-19 on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters at the Jammu Convention Centre, Drabu said his fourth budget was not just a numerical statement but a social intervention, which “will change the whole narrative in the state of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Drabu held a 48-minute press conference that was also attended by his deputy Ajay Nanda, Chief Secretary BB Vyas, Commissioner Secretary Finance Navin Choudhary, and other top officials of the finance department.
“This budget will result in recovery of politics and the society and whole narrative in the state will change,” he said, “(and) we will see a much more vibrant civil society now.”
“This is a budget with a conscience and heart,” he claimed.
Drabu described the economic situation of Jammu and Kashmir as “good”. “It is at take-off point (and) needs support,” he said. For this, he said, “it needs a peaceful atmosphere.”
“But finances are looking very good and I am really very surprised that it is a deficit-free budget,” he said. “At least it is not a complicated budget… as I mentioned in my (budget) speech, it a sound budget where there is no technical mis-clarification,” he told the jam-packed media centre.
He said that his first three budgets aimed at “correcting the public system management”. “We have done it,” he claimed.
“Now we have to take the expenditure to the ground,” he said. The total budget expenditure was accounted at Rs 80,313 crore by the finance minister.
Listing the initiatives taken in this year’s budget, he said that “all sections” of society have been taken into the fold. “It is a pro-people, pro-industry… pro-employees budget,” he said. “Without any agitation or demand, we are committed to the 7th Pay Commission from April 1st 2018. We have released 1% DA in favour of employees with effect from July 1st 2017.”
The minister revealed that the “ambit of regularisation” was widened from 60,000 employees to at least 1 lakh 9 thousand. “It had become a social and humanitarian problem,” he said of the distress faced by casual employees. “Their finances have already been covered in the budget statement,” he informed.
He said that besides group insurance for regularised employees, the service age for entitlement to pension has been reduced to 20 years from 28 years. “Insurance scheme has been introduced for all 4.5 lakh employees as well as 1.5 lakh pensioners, while as unmarried daughter of a retired employee is eligible to receive the pension now.”