Chandigarh, March 15: With an eye to next year's assembly elections in the state, the Punjab government's budget for the next financial year has laid stress on the social welfare sector, and youth and farmers in the agrarian state.
Presenting the budget in the state assembly on Tuesday, Punjab Finance Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa announced an interest-free loan scheme for farmers and another scheme that will provide provident fund and pension to the peasantry.
In his budget speech here, Dhindsa said that small and marginal farmers (having less than 5 acres land holding) will be able to avail interest-free crop loans of Rs.50,000 per crop. The interest burden of four percent, payable to the banks, will be borne by the state government.
The move will cost the Punjab government Rs.200 crore annually.
Dhindsa also announced a new provident fund and pension scheme for farmers in which they will be able to save money and earn pension after attaining the age of 60 years.
The state's budget of Rs.86,387 crore has a revenue deficit of Rs.7,983 crore.
The government earmarked Rs.10 crore to pay compensation to family of farmers who commit suicide.
For the youth, the budget has offered interest-free education loans for those from economically weaker sections, skill development and vocational training schemes, free stationery for girl students in schools and health care kits for girls in classes 6th to 12th.
The state also abolished entertainment tax on cultural, music and theatre shows and films that promote Punjabi culture and language.
Dhindsa said that the Punjab government will soon recruit 12,000 new teachers.
Punjab goes for assembly elections in February next year.
The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal has been in power in the state since 2007 with alliance partner BJP.