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No surprises in Maharashtra budget

Published On : 19 Mar 2017   |  Reported By : Courtesy: The Hindu

Mumbai (The Hindu): In a status-quo budget which focused primarily on agriculture sector, Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar on Saturday refrained from announcing the farm loan waiver as demanded by the opposition as well as coalition partner Shiv Sena, but promised to double the farmers’ income by 2021.

In a ‘farmer-friendly’ budget, Mr Mungantiwar allocated approximately 15,000 crore for the agri sector in the coming financial year. In a budget which had no new schemes, the government chose to fund only ongoing projects and refrained from announcing increase in any of the state taxes.

“It is proposed to double the agricultural income by year 2021 and to enable this, The government has decided to focus on irrigation, electricity, farm roads, food processing, agricultural technology, marketing, group farming and agricultural credit,” said Mr. Mungantiwar, in a speech that lasted an hour and a half. The address was interrupted continuously by the opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLAs, who displayed banners demanding loan waiver and shouted slogans. The Shiv Sena, which had earlier this week, even threatened to not let Mr. Mungantiwar present the budget, chose to remain silent today.

Major allocations

Some major announcements made today include allocation of 8,233 crore for Water Resources Department, 2,812 crore for Prime Minister Krishi Sinchai Yojana, and ?1,200 for the Jalyukta Shivar. A sum of ?979.10 crore has been provided for electrification of agricultural pumps and to clear the backlog in eastern Vidarbha.

Mr. Mungantiwar proposed to increase the VAT from 23.08% to 25.93% on the MRP of foreign liquor, IMFL and country liquor. He also raised the tax on weekly lottery from ?75,000 to ?1 lakh.

Tax concessions

Outlining the tax concessions, Mr. Mungantiwar said sugarcane farmers will be exempted from purchase tax in 2017-18. Tax concessions on essential commodities like rice, wheat, pulses and their flour, turmeric, chilly, tamarind, jaggery, coconut, coriander seeds, fenugreek, parsley, papad, wet dates, Solapuri chadars and towels will continue till the introduction of GST, expected to come into force from July 1.

Slamming the budget, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil called it a ‘betrayal’ of farmers. “We asked for loan waiver for farmers, but what we received was nothing but u-turn from the State government,” the Congress leader said.

In one of the key announcements of the budget, Mr Mungantiwar proposed institutionalizing of an infrastructure fund for which a separate Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) is being considered namely MAHAINFRA. “In the next five years, we envisage approximately a requirement of Rs one lakh core to finance capital expenditure of key infrastructure projects. There is a need to look at alternative methods to generate funds for infrastructure development,” said Mr Mungantiwar.

The SPV is proposed to act as a single window for aggregating land held by various departments for securitisation which neither in use nor expected to be developed by the holding department for next 10 years. It could also be converted in to a non-banking financial compnay in lines with Gujarat State Financial Company in lines wih Gujarat State Financil Services Ltd.

?1,600 crore have been allotted for the central and State share in the smart city program, along with 1,870 crore for AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transforamtion). ?1,605 to cover State and central share have been proposed for Swacchh Bharat Abhiyan. The Minister announced ?710 crore for Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur metro projects.

In an attempt to maintain social equations, 2,384 crore have been made available for the separate department that is being started for the welfare of VJNT, OBC and Special OBC from April 1, 2017. ?350 crore is being provided for the welfare of minorities in the budget, while women’s commission gets ?7.94 crore.

A provision of 200 crore has been proposed for the grand memorial of Chhatrapti Shivaji Maharaj in Arabian Sea, memorial of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar at Indu Mill and memorial of late Bal Thackeray at Mayor Bungalow.

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