The Tamil Nadu budget, presented by finance minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan on March 20, is a resounding reiteration of DMK’s commitment towards social justice. For the first time in India, a state government is implementing a scheme to provide a monthly honorarium of Rs 1,000 to all eligible women heads of families. It has allocated Rs 7,000 cr for the scheme rollout up to March 2024. What chief minister M K Stalin promised at a public rally in Tiruchy on March 7, 2021, will be a reality two years later. As promised by him, the new government firmly sits on the five foundations—Periyar’s social justice, Anna’s federalism, Kalaignar’s modern development, Kamarajar’s educational development and Jeeva’s equality. The budget proposals stand testimony to the fact that there is no going back on their stated objectives.
Though it may look like a populist budget, most proposals feed into long-standing demands. For instance, a proposal is to bring all schools run by Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department under the education department. A massive Rs 30,000 cr has been allocated for loans to be given to women self-help groups, while Rs 40,299 cr has been earmarked for school education. Interestingly, all these welfare schemes come without compromising the financial discipline of the state. PTR has brought down the revenue deficit by around 52% since 2021 to Rs 30,000 cr in the revised estimates for 2022–23 and reiterated that going forward, the state would adopt a smooth glide path to achieve a zero-revenue deficit. Meanwhile, he may have to keep a vigil on the rising debt, which is well within the norms prescribed at 25.63% of the GSDP. By March 31, 2024, TN’s outstanding debt is expected to go up to Rs 7,26,029 cr.
TN’s exclusive agriculture budget has worked well for the state. This year’s agri budget has focused on organic farming and millet production. The state has recently released a policy detailing several initiatives to promote organic farming. In 2023, the year of millets, it is also increasing the cultivation area for millets. The budget has also announced special missions for improving the production of moringa, jackfruit, Madurai jasmine, chilli, and curry leaves. States with a sizable agrarian population could emulate the TN model with a separate agri budget.