CHANDIGARH: A day after chief minister Amarinder Singh announced a loan waiver for farmers, the state's finance minister Manpreet Bada disclosed in the Assembly that it would amount to no more than Rs 1,500 crore.
This quashed all hopes of a total farm loan waiver raised by the chief minister on Monday. As Amarinder Singh told it, there would be a waiver of Rs 2 lakh for small and marginal farmers owning less than five acres, and a flat Rs 2 lakh relief for all other marginal farmers, irrespective of their loan amount.
But the finance minister's figure, stated in his budget presentation in the Assembly on Tuesday, was a huge downer for the opposition, especially the Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP, whose lawmakers tore up papers and flung them in the direction of the speaker. The Aam Aadmi Party staged a walkout.
The new Congress government's first budget was touted to be tax-free and focused on reducing the state's debt burden while throwing in major incentives for employment, agriculture and real estate. As it turned out, Manpreet Badal worked out an outlay of Rs 1,18,237.9 crore, with an emphasis on education and social welfare.
Interestingly the chief minister was not present as Manpreet Badal presented his budget and made a pointed mention that the government inherited a heavy burden of debt from the previous SAD-BJP government.
Badal's disclosed his allocations and added a spin to it. The agriculture allocation has been hiked from Rs 6383 crore to Rs 10,580 crore in 2017-18, "the first time in Punjab's history that the outlay for agriculture has topped the Rs 10,000 crore mark.
The other point of curiosity in the budget was how it would follow up on Amarinder Singh's promise during this election campaign that his government would create one job for every family in the state. Manpreet Badal said his budget speech that three lakh jobs would be created under the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Rozgar Sirjan Yojna-Apni Gadi Apna Rozgar scheme which is set to tie up with two private sector companies -- Ola and Uber.
On the welfare front, the state government increased social security pensions from Rs 500 to Rs 750 per month to all beneficiaries including aged people, dependent children, disabled people, widows and destitute women. Curiously, the honorarium paid to chowkidars has been hiked to Rs 1250 per month.
Another bit of largesse was doled out to acid attack victim, female: financial assistance of Rs 8000 per month.