Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje announced a one-time loan waiver for small and marginal farmers up to ₹50,000 each from their outstanding short-term debt in the 2018-19 State budget presented in the Assembly here on Monday.
While this move will cost ₹8,000 crore to the State exchequer, no new taxes were imposed in the budget.
The budget, which gave sops to almost every section of the population, was perceived as a populist one, coming in the wake of her party’s defeat in the recently concluded by-elections in Rajasthan.
This was Ms. Raje’s last budget in her present tenure, as the State goes to polls in December this year.
Ms. Raje also announced ₹650 crore tax relief and ₹44,135 crore expenditure on the development, infrastructure and social security schemes in the budget. “I have sub-divided the areas of budgetary expenditure to reach out to the maximum number of people and made the best use of public money,” Ms. Raje, who also holds the Finance portfolio, said.
The budget proposed a total outlay of ₹1,07,865.40 crore on schemes and projects, with 40.92% going to social and community services and schemes. In the planned outlay, the power sector received 25.08% and rural development sector 13.42% of the allocations. Ms. Raje said all expenditures would be within the limits of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act.
The Chief Minister also announced exemption to small and marginal farmers from the payment of land revenue and establishment of a State Farmers’ Debt Relief Commission as a permanent institution for settlement of crop loans on merit basis.
A provision of ₹15 crore was made for entrepreneurship development under the Skill Training Scheme, while interest-free loan of ₹2 lakh will be provided to people engaged in mechanical works and two years’ child care leave will be given to women employees. A new project for development of water catchment areas will also be undertaken at a cost of ₹151 crore.
The estimated fiscal deficit for 2018-19 is ₹28,011.21 crore, which is 2.98% of the Gross State Domestic Product, while the estimated total revenue receipt for the year is ₹1,51,663.50 crore. The budget had the estimated revenue deficit of ₹5,454.85 crore without the effect of the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana.
In the tax proposals, Ms. Raje announced 50% exemption in stamp duty for the establishment of IT, entertainment and tourism sector units, 10% increase in SGST-based investment subsidy and an increase in the maximum limit of interest subsidy in a year for agro-based industries and services from ₹5 lakh to ₹7.5 lakh.
The Opposition Congress described the budget as “directionless” and said the BJP government would not be able to implement the announcements in the limited time it has. Pradesh Congress president Sachin Pilot said the crop loan waiver would not benefit thousands of farmers who had obtained loans from the institutions other than the cooperative banks. He also expressed surprise that the social security pensions had not been increased for any category of eligible people.