Friday, March 9, 2012

Budget evokes mixed reaction in Assembly

National Panthers Party (NPP) Legislature Party leader and former Minister Harshdev Singh today described general budget for 2012-13 presented by Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather as a "tribute to affluent and privilege section of society’’.

Participating in debate on the budget, Mr Singh described as a "cruel joke’’ ` 150 crore worth grant for Jammu and ` 100 crore for Ladakh as recommended by Special Task Force of the Prime Minister saying on the one hand ` 2200 crore have been sanctioned for Jhelum rive in Kashmir while ` 150 crore have been given to 10 districts of Jammu region to end discrimination.

"While Rs 1100 crore have been given to Dal lake, not a single penny has been given for the lakes of Jammu including Mansar, Surinsar, Sanasar and Dalsar. There has also been no mention of river Tawi’’, he regretted.

Asserting that there had been no end to regional disparities, Harshdev Singh said the school, colleges were being opened at whims and fancies of Minister. Similar was the case in allocation of funds for tourism, he added.

He said the Finance Minister has ignored bad pocket areas in the budget. He added that J&K had been at tail-end of Centrally Sponsored Schemes.

Describing the Legislative Council as a ‘superfluous institution’, Harshdev said while the elected MLAs have their constituency for which they were given ` 1.5 crore as Constituency Development Fund while the MLAs have no constituency and it was "sheer wastage of money’’ to given them CDF.

The NPP leader said the austerity measures announced by the Finance Minister two years back were being flouted with impunity by the Ministers, who traveled to the constituencies with convoys of vehicles, thus, looting the State exchequer. He also opposed the appointment of chairpersons and vice chairpersons to the Boards.

PDP leader and former Minister Abdul Rehman Veeri said 25 lakh people i.e. one-fifth of total population of the State were living Below Poverty Line (BPL) and no steps have been mentioned in the budget to raise their standards.

"There is disparity in the social system. The Government should provide social justice to the people. To the contrary, the budget will add more people in the list of BPL’’, he said.

Mr Veeri said the unemployed youths were also being pushed to BPL category.

"There is nothing innovative in the budget. No path-breaking reforms have been taken. The budget has been nothing but a routine exercise’’, he asserted.

Mr Veeri said all important sectors like handicrafts, horticulture, industry and power, which were key factors of the State’s economy have been ignored. The Government is also silent on taking back power projects from NHPC, which was contrary to the tall claims bade by the Government in recent past, he added.

The veteran PDP leader called for enhancing monthly relief of Kashmir Pandits from ` 5000 to ` 10,000.

Mr Veeri sought concrete steps to check the power distribution losses and called for overall improvement in the power scenario in the State. He also sought a well knit mechanism for the post harvesting management of the fruit crop in the Valley to protect the interests of the farmers. He stressed for generating maximum employment avenues for the youth. He demanded promotion of local industry to absorb unemployed youth.

CPM MLA Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami referred to Mr Rather’s statement of `peace dividends’ in the budget and remarked ``peace can’t be sustained with empty stomach’’.

"Hunger promotes violence. It’s a huge challenge for all of us to give employment to youths and keep the people above poverty line if we really want restoration of peace in the State’’, he said.

He voiced concern over the clause in Sher-I-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Programme for Youth (SKEWPY) under which a Matric pass youth would get allowance at the age of 26 i.e. nearly eight to 10 years after passing Matric. He said the assistance should be given to the youth immediately so that he could pursue his further studies.

Mr Tarigami said Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) teachers now have been brought to the level of SPOs with ` 3000 wages. ``They are becoming Rehbar-e-Starvation. What is the fun of this Rehbare’’? he asked and called for regularization of all Rehbar employees and increase in their wages.

Referring to appointment of chairpersons and vice chairpersons to Boards and Corporations, the CPM leader said they must explain what they have done to bring the Corporations out of red. ``Instead, I think they have put more burden on the Boards and Corporations’’, he added.

Mr Tarigami said the Board and Corporations were being used by the Government for `political employment generation’ by appointing chairpersons to them.

Congress MLA and former Minister GA Mir called for employment package for the youth.

"The unemployed youths need a helping hand. The Government must help the unemployed youths with both Government jobs and in private sector’’, he added.

Mr Mir stressed for al-round development of the State.

He also pointed out some grey areas, which need Government’s immediate attention. He suggested more initiatives to promote tourism sector, which is backbone of the State’s economy. He expressed satisfaction over last year’s tourist flow and peace in the Valley, which brought smiles on the face of business community.

Mr Mir conveyed his gratitude to the Government for withdrawing VAT on the computers and electronic gadgets, which he said would boost the morale of youth and promote the IT sector in the State.

Indu Pawar (Nominated MLA) hailed the Government for exempting agriculture tools, pesticides, fertilizers, and other edibles including atta and besan from VAT and enhancing honorarium of Numberdar and Chowkidars. She pleaded for bringing border areas on tourist map which have tourist potential, provision of funds for conservation of Surinsar and Mansar lakes and extension of RGGVY to un-covered hamlets.

Bimla Luthra (Nominated MLA) demanded enhancement in the pension of widows and old-aged beneficiaries, besides honorarium of SPOs.

Jugal Kishore (BJP) while opposing the budget said it has disappointed the common man adding that Government has failed to fulfill their aspirations. He sought withdrawal of VAT on CSD Canteen items to protect the interests of security personnel and their families. He forcefully advocated for discouraging the consumption of liquor/wine in Jammu city and sought complete ban on it in Jammu. Mr Kishore also sought regularization of daily wagers in different departments. He demanded special funds for improving the road connectivity in the rural areas.

Ashwani Sharma (JSM) sought provision of special funds for ` 100 crore in the budget as incentives to the farmers. He said majority of population in the State is engaged with the agriculture activities and Government should focus on this important sector. He also sought special recruitment drive for the border youth and mitigating the problems of the PaK/PoK refugees.

Peerzada Mansoor Hussain (PDP) alleged diversion of funds meant for development of Kashmir towards Jammu and Ladakh regions, adding that allocation of special additional grants for these regions has become a permanent feature now as the practice has been repeated in next years Budget also.

He alleged that NHPC is not fulfilling the agreement made with the State Government regarding engagement of manpower in various hydel power projects. However, Mansoor hailed the Budget for VAT exemption on cooking gas, agriculture inputs and implements and enhancement of honorarium of Numberdars, Chowkidars, SPOs, ReT's, teachers and demanded enhancement in the monthly relief of Kashmiri migrants from existing ` 5000 to ` 10,000.

Mir Saifullah (NC) suggested to adopt long and short term measures for extraction of natural resources present in the State, setting up of industrial units for using human resources, and reactivation of sick units. He demanded revocation of Indus water treaty. He also called for a vigorous publicity campaign to attract more tourists for visits to various tourist destinations of the State. He also demanded for setting up of Juice Industries in the State.

Ajaz Ahmed Jan (NC) while appreciating the budget said that present government has tried to give justice to the common man. He sought promotion of LoC trade via Chakan-Da-Bagh- Poonch adding that need to be included more items in the trade list. He sought special employment package for the Poonch area and enhancement of remunerations of SPOs.

Choudhary Sukhnandan (BJP) called for developing marketing channels for agriculture produce to enable farmers fetch better remuneration. He also urged for providing more irrigation facilities and VAT exemption on Tractor Trolleys. He demanded setting up of vegetable Mandi's in different areas of the Jammu.

Nazir Ahmed Gurezi (NC) sought special attention of the Government towards development of backward and in accessible pockets of the State. He demanded further enhancement of special development grants for bad pockets.

Dr Sheikh Mustafa Kamal (NC) called for united efforts by all, above political considerations, to get hydle power projects back from the NHPC adding that this was in the overall interests of the whole State. He urged for exploiting the huge water resources for power generation optimally.

Dr Kamal hailed the budget proposal for taxes concessions on agriculture, horticulture, tourism and industries, adding that this would surely benefit a vast chunk of population related to these basic and important components of the State's economy and people's livelihood. He appreciated the Government for implementing 6th Pay Commission recommendations to benefit the State employees, adding that about 25 lakh people including about 5 lakh employees and their families have been benefited by this decision.

"Even 5th Pay Commission recommendations were implemented by the NC regime", Dr Kamal added. He called for focused attention towards solar power energy adding that Centre provides 90% subsidy for this purpose.

Nizam-ud-Din Bhat (PDP) said that Government has tried to undermine the global scenario which received jolt due to serious recessions in the economy. He said this scenario has definitely made impact on the economy of our State. Government should adopt the Universal principals for generating resources, he asserted.

Syed Basharat Bukhari (PDP) stressed for promotion of Animal Husbandry and poultry sectors which have great potential in the State. He said most of the meat products are being imported in the State, due to which a major chunk of State's economy moves outside. He called for promoting State's resources optimally to improve the economy.

Balwant Singh Mankotia (NPP) stressed the need for exploiting the State's Natural resources, adding that we all should make collective efforts to get back the hydel power projects from the NHPC. He called for further promoting the tourism sector, which is backbone of the State's economy. He sought equal treatment to the migrants of Jammu division also.

Krishan Chander Bhagat (Congress) spoke in favour of the budget and appreciated the Finance Minister for presenting pro-people budget. He said Government has tried to give relief to the common man by abolishing the VAT on essential items. He sought special development measures for the Chenani area and urged for developing new tourist spots in his area. He sought regularization of daily wagers in different departments.

Bharat Bushan, MLA Domana called for development of tourist circuit for tapping the border tourism potential of his constituency, besides provision of irrigation facilities to the farmers.

Prof. Gharu Ram Bhagat, MLA R S Pura called for safe guarding the Constitutional rights of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe community, adding that quota for them in recruitment and promotion should be adhered to strictly. He also called long and short term measures for development of under-privileged communities of the society.

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