JAIPUR: Rajasthan government is now tightening its belt. Junkets to foreign lands are off for politicians. State officials cannot go on tours either. What's more: no new posts would be created in government services for some time as the Ashok Gehlot government cuts the binge. For a temporary blanket ban on extra expenditure has been sought by the government to save precious funds it needs to make its electoral promises good, and importantly, politically survive.
On Thursday, the government announced Rs 3,500 per month as unemployment allowance for girls and Rs 3,000 for boys to keep a promise in its election manifesto for youth, even as officials identified a slew of austerity measures for Cabinet approval. One of the proposals to shore up the exchequer is to auction parcels of government land lying unused all over the state, to finance its promises even as it looks to take soft loans and increase its income.
With the Opposition BJP snapping at its heels, claiming the Congress lived by empty promises, a major recommendation to curb fund flow is that the state should implement the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat insurance scheme in the state, instead of the Bhamasha Health Scheme that was put in place by the erstwhile Vasundhara Raje government.
Yet, all the austerity may not generate enough cash.
Around 5.5 million of the 7 million farmers in the state have taken farm loans under various state government schemes. The value of these loans is Rs 94,000 crore. The Gehlot government waived total outstanding short-term loans till November 30, 2018 benefitting around 4 million, though it cost R18,000 crore.
Budget Analysis and Research Centre (BARC) director Nisar Ahmed said the government was essentially looking at three options. “One is austerity measures. The second is to take a loan and the third is to increase revenue. There is less scope of revenue generation after the GST council has been formed... Finally, the only feasible option is to take a loan. But the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management, Act, 2005 (FRBM) puts a cap on the loan amount. The Gehlot Government has asked for help from the Centre but that looks difficult as there is a BJP government,” he said.