Debt-ridden Punjab gets Rs 1.18 lakh cr budget

Chandigarh, June 20 (IANS) The Congress government in Punjab on Tuesday presented its maiden budget in the state assembly with total financial proposals of over Rs 1.18 lakh crore, placing emphasis on education and social sectors.

Presenting the budget, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said the “budget would benefit 99 per cent of people in Punjab”.
Under pressure from the opposition and in keeping with the Congress manifesto promise, Badal proposed an initial outlay of Rs 1,500 crore to waive off farm loans.
“The total outstanding debt of the state on March 31 was Rs 1,86,618 crore, including the informal debt of Rs 4,435 crore which has been raised by the state government through various agencies without the approval of the Government of India,” Badal said.
“The previous government, while demitting office, left huge pending liabilities of Rs 13,039 crore for expenditure already incurred,” Badal said.
He said: “This includes unpaid liability of Atta-Dal scheme of Rs 1,747 crore, Dearness Allowance of Rs 2,773 crore, and unpaid power subsidy amounting to Rs 2,342 crore. Bills amounting to Rs 7,791 crore lapsed on March 31 as the Treasury did not have funds to honour these bills.”
The opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dismissed the budget as “directionless”.
They pointed out that the budget did not fulfil most of the promises made by the Congress before the assembly elections.
Badal announced 66 per cent increase in agriculture sector spending, increasing the outlay from Rs 6,383.01 crore to Rs 10,580.99 crore.
“This is the first time in Punjab’s history that the budget outlay for agriculture will exceed Rs 10,000 crore,” Badal told the media after presenting the budget.
He proposed an allocation of Rs 10 crore to provide free smartphones to the youth.
Focusing on creation of employment, the Finance Minister stated that three lakh jobs would be created under the ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh RozgarSirjan Yojna-Apni Gadi Apna Rozgar scheme’ alone, following a tie-up with two private sectors majors Ola and Uber.

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