UNVEILING the first budget of the Indian National Congress government in Punjab, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal described his budget as one that would benefit 99 per cent of the people of Punjab.Unveiling a slew of budgetary reforms, the Finance Minister announced a 66 per cent increase in agriculture sector spending, increasing the outlay from Rs.6,383.01crore to Rs.10,580.99 crore. “This is the first time in Punjab history that the budget outlay for agriculture will exceed Rs.10,000 crore,” Manpreet Singh Badal told the media after presenting the budget. Government is allocating an initial outlay of Rs.1500 crore for waiving the debts of dis-stressed farmers in Punjab.Government is committed to plan the Solarization of 2000 Agriculture pump sets in the State of Punjab with an 80% subsidy component and budgetary provision of Rs.100 crore in this regard for 2017-18.To motivate, encourage and to reward the Gram Panchayats to stop burning of paddy straw, an allocation of Rs.20 crore has been made.Focusing on creation of employment, the Finance Minister stated that 3 lakh jobs will 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.The State Government has increased social security pension from Rs.500 per month to Rs.750 per month to all categories of beneficiaries including old age persons, dependent children, disabled persons, widows and destitute women. Government has also decided to increase the honorarium given to the Chowkidars to Rs.1250 per month.
The Government has announced an allocation of Rs.100 crore for Universal Health Insurance for the under privileged people.Under the Scheme "Financial Assistance to Acid Attack Female Victims", a financial assistance of Rs.8000/- per month shall be provided.Government has announced Modified Atta Dal Scheme using Smart Ration Cards to the beneficiaries. Apart from this, Tea leaves and sugar shall be provided to BPL families. An amount of Rs.500 crore has been provided for this in 2017-18.Based on Antyodaya concept, all the deprived sections and destitute living in rural areas who were historically been ignored will be assisted through a new scheme called PENDU SARV JAN HITKARI YOJANA, under which Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) of all 13,000 panchayats in the state based on ground level planning will ensure that the infrastructure works carried out with the help of various funds made available in rural areas.A major boost to the real estate sector will come through the reduction of transfer of ownership of plots/houses from 2.5% to 2%. Stamp duty on registration of property in urban areas has been cut by a massive 3% from the existing 9% to 6%. These two measures will boost the construction sector, the Finance Minister added. New residential and industrial estates will be established at Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Ludhiana, among others. A sum of Rs.2020 crore will be spent on various development works in the state in the construction sector alone.Elaborating that only four crops contribute 70 per cent of the agriculture sector, the Finance Minister announced a spate of new investments for boosting agriculture and allied sectors.
This includes modernization of three milk plants at Mohali, Jalandhar and Amritsar, which will increase the milk handling capacity by 25 per cent in one year. Two pig breeding farms at Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur, and upgrading of Government piggery farm at Nabha are among the proposal.A 50 per cent hike in compensation (up from Rs.8,000/acre to Rs.12,000/acre), an increase in cooperative lending to farmers (which should touch Rs.10,000 crore), along with amendments to the Agriculture Produce Marketing Act, and reconstitution of the Punjab Farmers Commission is also on the agenda.The modern and the state of the art ‘Green Boards’ will be provided in all primary schools. This will help the teachers in improving the quality of education. The government will also provide furniture to all Government Schools and free textbooks to the students.Computer education will be introduced in all primary schools in Punjab, Manpreet Singh Badal stressed as he spoke of how education will the primary tool to reduce inequalities and inequities in the state.Establishment of five 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 are among the other major initiatives in the field of education.
Ashirwaad scheme will get a 40 per cent hike with a sum of Rs.21,000 (up from Rs.15,000). Government has also increased the reservation for Scheduled Castes from 15% to 30% in all government schemes pertaining to the allotment of plots/houses in the state. Paying tribute to Punjab for being the sword arm of India, Manpreet Singh Badal announced that the institute whose students qualify for NDA and IMA, will get 1 lakh each for every student admitted. A General Sham Singh Attariwala Armed Forces Preparatory Institute will be established at Amritsar, while Sainik School, Kapurthala will be upgraded. Freedom fighters humbly will get 300 units free residential electricity.A 20 per cent hike has been made in Health sector, with 50 crore earmarked for the establishment of Primary Rural Rehabilitation and Drug De-addiction centres in the State. A new medical college will be opened at SAS Nagar (Mohali), while tertiary care centres will be set up at cost of Rs.50 crore at Fazilka and Hoshiarpur.The enhance ease of doing business in the State, Government will setup MSME Punjab Kendras in each district with the power to grant regulatory clearance across the departments.Government shall provide all facilitation and help to the Trade and Industry in ensuring a smooth transition to GST regime. For this, the State shall appoint a Tax Ombudsman to address the grievances of the trade and industry, objectively and impartially.State government will establish 16 Specific Industrial Parks, New industrial hubs shall be set up in District Sangrur and Ludhiana, and an exhibition cum convention centre will be set up in Ludhiana under the PPP mode. A Punjab Corporate Social Responsibility Authority (PCSRA) will be established.
To increase regional linkages, four airports of Bathinda, Adampur, Ludhiana and Pathankot will be linked under the regional connectivity scheme.The Transport Department shall soon come out with a policy to incentivize the use of electric vehicles, to encourage more people to shift to these less polluting vehicles.Punjab will provide free smart phones to youth at a cost of Rs.10 crore.The outlay of the Department of Local Government will witness a quantum increase and it includes development of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala as smart cities. All Municipal Towns/areas will be open defecation free by March, 2019, and 117,645 individual household toilets would be built.This Government is committed to built houses for houseless poor urban SC/BC families in the State, which will involve construction of 2000 houses for eligible families this year.An NRI Property Safeguard Act will be formulated, and an NRI ombudsman established in the state.Though the speech was laden with poetry from famous poets of the subcontinent, Manpreet also quoted global economists like Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and the French economist Thomas Piketty as he spoke of how Punjab’s economy can benefit from modern global financial trends.