Dhumal presents tax-free Budget in HP

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Shimla, Mar 7 (UNI) Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal today presented tax-free budget proposals for 2008-2009, while continuing with ration subsidy started by previous government, announcing payment of five per cent interim relief to government employees and pensioners this month from November 1, 2006 on Punjab pattern, and committing 25,000 jobs in government sector.

The Chief Minister presented the budget estimates of Rs 12,542 crore for 2008-2009, with proposed borrowings of Rs 3137.25 crore, debt repayment of Rs 1181.99 crore and a closing deficit of Rs 26.37 crore.

The total cumulative debts on the state by the end of the current financial year (2007-2008) are likely to be Rs 22,930 crore.

In his budget speech, Mr Dhumal, however, did not speak of any major policy decision by the government.

The budget proposals included abolishing the Parchee (registeration) fee in the hospitals, hiking the procurement rate of milk by Rs two per litre, opening of three medical colleges in public-private partnership at Mandi, Hamirpur and Una, re-introduction of Mukhyamantri Gram Path Yojana, pre-matric scholarships for around 10,000 poor students belonging to Other Backward Classes (OBCs), doubling of subsidised loan to Rs one lakh for ex-servicemen, a increase of Rs five lakh in the Vidhayak Kshetra Vikas Nidhi Yojana (presently Rs 25 lakh per annum), so as to give boost to development on areas prioritised by the MLAs, and raising honoraria of Panchayat representatives by 50 per cent and rationalisation of remuneration to Vidya Upasaks.

The budget also proposes to introduce Free Health Insurance scheme for the families Below Poverty Line, a Special Insurance scheme for weavers and doubling of insurance benefits to Rs 50,000 in case of accidental death, and Rs 25,000 in case of loss of one limb.

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