Gujarat budget provides for subsidised wheat, rice

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Gandhinagar, Feb 23 (IANS) Gujarat Finance Minister Saurabh Patel on Tuesday presented a Rs. 1,51,852 crore budget for 2016-17 while announcing a scheme for wheat and rice for the poor at Rs.2 and Rs.3 a kg respectively.

The state would now provide 35 kg of foodgrains per family living below poverty line. The lower middle class too would get the benefit of the scheme and can avail up to 5 kg of foodgrains every month.

This announcement comes soon after the Supreme Court had recently pulled up Gujarat for non-implementation of the Food Security Act, a scheme brought by the previous UPA central government.

The budget that provides a sizeable chunk for infrastructure development across the state also tries to please the electorate in both rural and urban Gujarat by a slew of new schemes.

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Patel called it a pro-poor budget with focus on job creation and social sector.

The budget estimates an overall surplus of Rs.245 crore and a revenue surplus of Rs.3,236 crore.

The minister has earmarked Rs.40,285.52 crore for social sector, which is over 42 percent of the total allocation and Rs.1,800 crore more than last fiscal.

However, the state’s public debt that stood at Rs.182,000 crore is likely to surpass Rs 200,000 crore in 2016-17, taking the per capita total debt on each citizen in the state to Rs.38,777.

In its attempt to address the issue of unemployment, Patel announced that over 66,000 posts would be filled this year, with large-scale government recruitments to the posts of teachers, gram sevaks, health workers, police, forest guards etc.

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“This is the first instance of such a large-scale government recruitment since formation of the state,” he said.

The budget also plans to develop 300 Smart Villages on pilot basis. Explaining the scheme, Patel said the state government would select villages in a transparent and independent competition to make all 300 selected villages self-reliant, clean, crime-free, disease free and economically-sound.

“We have made a provision of Rs.185 crore to provide special assistance to all the 300 smart villages,” he said, adding that a provision of Rs.375 crore has been made to provide interest relief to the farmers under which interest on kharif crop loan up to Rs.3 lakh will be only one percent. He claimed this would benefit 38 lakh farmers.

On the taxation front, Patel has introduced an additional entry tax on goods purchased on e-commerce sites from other states, saying this was being done to protect interests of local businessmen.

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He gave a tax relief of about Rs.171 crore on items such as mosquito nets, sanitary pads, and ceramic products, but hiked rates on luxury cars and SUVs, pan masala and industrial salt.

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