The states's budget was introduced on Tuesday with a prime focus on social sector including upliftment of women and children."With a woman like Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel at the helm, her approach towards women empowerment, as well as development of the social sector through education, nutrition and health is rightly reflected in the modified budget estimates of 2014-15," Gujarat Finance Minister Saurabh
Patel said, while presenting the budget. Patel also focused on the need to generate employment through education and skill development, especially in the medium and small-scale industries while trying to boost agricultural sector.
Women empowerment prime focus
In a patriarchal society like India where crime against women is rapidly rising apart from increasing social evils like dowry, female foeticide, need to bring change in the social status of women is the need of the hour. Women leadership started in India with Rani Lakshmi Bhai followed by Annie Besant, Sarojni Naidu and one of the powerful Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, but unfortunately the mindset has still not changed. The Gujarat Government's initiative of introducing a Gender Budget clubbing all the women-centric provisions under one head have several lessons left for the Centre to learn.
Rs 9,000-crore fund for Sardar Sarovar Dam
The Centre who is to present the NDA Government's maiden budget on July 10 should also focus on presenting a women friendly budget. In a developing country like India which is known for its rich culture and tradition but unfortunately not known for the safety of its women, importance of women and child development needs prime focus. The UPA Government allocated 1000 crore as Nirbhaya Fund in two successive budget for the safety and security of women but little was done for their upliftment.
Sardar Sarovar Dam
The Sardar Sarovar Dam was also in the news after NGOs and political parties protested the move of raisng the height which may displace lakhs of people. The Budget though has allocated Rs 9,000 crore for the Narmada project after the Central Government gave nod to increase the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam recently. However, the State Government clarified that the money will be used to increase the dam's height and build a canal network to take water to the fields of farmers. Giving details of the Sardar Sarovar project, Finance Minister Saurabh Patel said, "In the last three years, works of 5,342 kms have been completed by acquiring 10,726 hectares of land from 70,840 farmers with their consent. Till date, canal works of the length of 25,079 km have been completed and irrigation capacity for total 9.75 lakh hectares has been created."
The budget has also given thrust to develop storage facilities for the agricultural produce which will help farmers. Gujarat Government has provided Rs 200 crore to enhance storage capacity at taluka levels and Rs 76 crore to support godowns through primary agriculture co-operative societies. Keeping in the mind the rise in farmer's suicide due to huge debts, the Government announced a scheme to give interest rate of 6 per cent for 3 years to farmers.
The Gujarat Government though announced some measures for the agricultural growth but weak Monsoon during the entire month of June with parts of the country receiving deficient rainfall even up to 91 per cent in some areas of Gujarat has escalated prices of essential commodities. Little has been done in the budget to curb price rise which was severely criticised by the Opposition.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will also be concentrating on agriculture sector in his maiden budget as poor monsoon(led by EL Nino weather phenomenon) have created drought like situation and high food inflation is already bringing tears in the eyes of the common man.
The Gujarat Government's move to reduce passenger tax from 17.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent has brought relief to 20 lakh daily commuters but the State may incur heavy revenue loss due to it. Relief in Value Added Tax (VAT) to the tune of Rs 322 crore has been proposed, but the State budget also proposed a VAT increase on other items to the tune of Rs 200 crore, in stamp duty to the tune of Rs 34 crore and Motor Vehicle Tax to the tune of Rs 80 crore. The Centre may be concentrating on raising taxes in the general budget as it may increase the Government's revenue at a time when the fiscal deficit is 6 year high of 45.6%.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who is to present the Union Budget next week is facing severe challenges to revive the economy like high inflation, fiscal deficit, surge in oil prices due to on-going Iraq crisis and weak monsoon is all set to take some bold decisions as the Modi Government have already hinted of bitter medicine to revive the floundering economy.