In overall estimation this appears a people friendly budget in which no hurting taxes have been proposed and no desirable facilities have been ignored. In particular, the Finance Minister has taken special care of the interests of significant sectors like industries, services, taxation, tourism, power etc. A slew of more attractive incentives and privileges have been announced for most of these services which general public will hail as people-friendly innovations. In order to boost industrial enterprise in which the Government wants the youth to make their place, a slew of new incentives have been proposed. The Government is happy that tax revenues estimated to be 9931 crore rupees for 2017-18 have crossed 10,000 crore rupees mark. This has helped the Finance Minister to announce some tax relaxations that will have impact in industrial as well as transport sector. Likewise not only apples but all kinds of fruits exported from the State are exempted from toll tax. This is definitely going to give a boost to fruit industry. However, he proposed to raise the toll on tobacco in all forms from Rs. 290 per quintal to Rs. 400 per quintal and thus make up the deficiency.
A slew of incentives have been announced for the industrial sector. It is to be appreciated that the Government will consider providing suitable incentive in lieu of CST exemption to the industrial units in the State. For example the Government has provided freight subsidy to the industrial units located in the State and transporting their goods beyond 1000 kilometres outside the State. We think that this and other measures announced for the benefit of industrial units will enhance their competitive capability and in the ultimate analysis the units would be benefited. There is also good news for the hoteliers and resorts owners as the Government will be treating hotels and resorts at par with the industries.
The FM announced rolling out CM’s Business Interest Relief Scheme. For all the RBI approved restructured accounts, the Government will contribute one third of the total interest payment of all these borrowers, which means monthly instalment one–third of the monthly instalment will be paid by the State Government and two-third by the borrowers. The budget brings great boon to the houseboats owners in Srinagar as the FM announced waiving of the NPAs liabilities to the tune of 147.23 lakh rupees that was the soft loan given to 19 houseboat owners. Amnesty schemes have also been proposed to grant waiver of penalty and interests on arrears of tax in respect of all dealers registered industries so far as payment of power tariff is concerned. This benefit will also trickle down to the consumers at the end of the day. Under the provisions of J&K Value Added Tax 2005, telecom operators will also be eligible to this concession. Likewise all such industrialists as owe power arrears to the Government will enjoy the waiver of interest and penalty on arrears. Small scale industrial unit owners too will be eligible to these benefits.
The Finance Minister has been liberal with the Government and public undertaking employees in more than one way. He has announced implementation of 7th Pay Commission recommendations from April 1, 2018 but effective from January 1, 2016 and also announced the release of one per cent Dearness Allowance due to the employees from July 1, 2017. Both demands were stoutly pursued by the state employees and they have the justification in view of soaring price of necessaries of life as a result of price hike. It is hoped that pensioners will also get benefit from these positive measure of the Government.
An important issue that has bedevilled the administration for many years is of cadre review issue of secretarial staff. He has devised a formula that will address this issue the sum total of which is that there should not be a freezing of the employee cadre. Within specific time of service cadre reviews will have to be made and this should be helpful to GP Fund subscribers to remove the confusion once for all. Many more welfare schemes have been envisaged. Unmarried daughters of the employee who dies in harness will receive pension when her parents are no more alive. He has proposed to enhance Deposit Linked Insurance of GP Fund subscription from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs 50 lakh. Similar schemes are available for employees covered under New Pension Scheme.
One conspicuous change in the new budget presented by the Finance Minister in the Legislative Assembly is that it has eschewed the Power Budget and replaced it with Panchayat Budget. It signifies the importance of panchayat management or to put it in technical terms passing on democratic powers to the people at their doorstep.
The budget does not propose new taxes nor any drastic reduction in existing tax system except the concessions mentioned above. It has been noted that the budget takes special care of industries and state’s industrial growth. The budget does not indicate any such measure that would have immediate and direct bearing on the market especially the items of daily consumption. One can call it a healthy budget though in the course of things, sections of people expect more than what has been offered. One area in which the budget has almost done little is that of employment venues for the youth in the State. Another area in which some drastic measures needed to be initiated is regular distribution of food supplies in the rural and far flung areas of the State. However, maybe these and other such matters are taken up by the Government departments in due course of time.