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Coffers Empty, Yet Basket-Full of Promises

Having inherited empty coffers and a huge outstanding debt of over Rs 2 lakh crore from the previous Akali Dal-BJP government, by its own admission, the Capt Amarinder Singh led Congress Government in Punjab, presented its maiden budget on Tuesday showing no signs of slowing down development or spending on public welfare schemes.

In his budget speech Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, in fact talked about allocation for agriculture to cross the Rs 10,000 crore mark for the first time. He also spelled out major incentives for employment generation and real estate.

Coffers Empty, Yet Basket-Full of Promises, Lifeinchd
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rnPhoto By: Life in Chandigarh

The proposals

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  • 66 per cent increase in agriculture sector spending, increasing the outlay from Rs.6,383.01 crore to Rs.10,580.99 crore.
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  • Initial outlay of Rs.1500 crore for waiving off farm loans of distressed farmers.
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  • Solarization of 2,000 agricultural pump sets with an 80% subsidy component and budgetary provision of Rs.100 crore.
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  • Rs. 20 crore to motivate, encourage and reward Gram Panchayats to stop burning of paddy straw.
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  • 3 lakh jobs to be created under the Shahed Bhagat Singh Rozgar Sirjan Yojna-Apni Gadi Apna Rozgar scheme alone, following a tie-up with two private sectors majors Ola and Uber.
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  • Social security pension hiked from Rs. 500 per month to Rs.750 per month for all categories of beneficiaries including old age persons, dependent children, disabled persons, widows and destitute women. 
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  • Rs.100 crore for Universal Health Insurance for underprivileged people.
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  • Financial assistance of Rs. 8,000 per month under "Financial Assistance to Acid Attack Female Victims".
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  • Rs. 500 crore for modified Atta Dal Scheme using Smart Ration Cards. Tea leaves and sugar to be additionally provided to BPL families.
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  • To boost real estate sector, fee on transfer of ownership of plots/houses reduced from 2.5% to 2%. Stamp duty on registration of property in urban areas cut from 9% to 6%.
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  • New residential and industrial estates to be established at Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Ludhiana, among others cities. Rs. 2,020 crore to be spent on development works in construction sector alone.
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  • To boost diversification of agriculture, milk plants at Mohali, Jalandhar and Amritsar to be modernised, to increase the milk handling capacity by 25 per cent in one year. Two pig breeding farms to be set up in Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur, and Government piggery farm at Nabha to be upgraded.
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  • Computer education to be introduced in all primary schools.
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  • 5 new degree colleges, increase in grant for Panjab University, establishment of Central Institute for Promotion and Development of Punjabi Language at Talwandi Sabo, establishment of e-library of national standards, infrastructure development of historic colleges of Punjab (Government Mahindra College, Patiala, Government College Kapurthala, Government College Malerkotla, Government College Hoshiarpur, and Government College Amritsar), establishment of Vocational Training Institute for Girls, and Regional Directorate of Apprenticeship at village Saneta, District Mohali.
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  • Sum under Ashirwaad scheme hiked 40 per cent, from Rs 15,000 to Rs.21,000. Reservation for Scheduled Castes in all government schemes pertaining to the allotment of plots/houses increased from 15% to 30%.
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  • Institutes whose students qualify for NDA and IMA, to get 1 lakh for every student admitted. A Gen. Sham Singh Attariwala Armed Forces Preparatory Institute to be established at Amritsar. Sainik School, Kapurthala to be upgraded.
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  • Freedom fighters to get 300 units free residential electricity.
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  • 20 per cent hike in Health sector allocation. Rs 50 crore for setting up Primary Rural Rehabilitation and Drug De-addiction centres. New medical college at Mohali. Tertiary care centres at a cost of Rs. 50 crore at Fazilka and Hoshiarpur.
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  • To enhance ease of doing business, MSME Punjab Kendras to be set up in each district with powers to grant regulatory clearance across departments.
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  • Tax Ombudsman to address grievances of trade and industry and ensure smooth transition to GST regime.
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  • 16 Specific Industrial Parks, New industrial hubs to be set up in Sangrur and Ludhiana districts. Exhibition cum convention centre at Ludhiana under PPP mode. Punjab Corporate Social Responsibility Authority (PCSRA) to be established.
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  • Policy to incentivize use of electric vehicles.Free smart phones to youth at a cost of Rs.10 crore.
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  • Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala to be developed as smart cities. All Municipal Towns / areas to be open defecation free by March, 2019, and 117,645 individual household toilets would be built.
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  • 2000 houses for eligible houseless poor urban SC/BC families this year.
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  • NRI Property Safeguard Act to be formulated, and NRI ombudsman established.
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