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Budget to streamline expenditure: FM

NC, PDP MLAs clash during Drabu's reply

Budget to streamline expenditure: FM

Avtar Bhat
JAMMU, Jan 16: Opposition NC and ruling PDP members clashed in the State Assembly during Finance Minister, Haseeb Drabu’s reply to budget debate in the second sitting today.
As Drabu made some reference to the NC leader’s speech on KCC loans, Party MLA from Nagrota, Devender Rana stood up from his seat and interrupted the Minister by raising a Point of Order. Rana, while taking on Finance Minister said that a dull person like him too had intimated you about KCC earlier.
“You only pass comments. You had promised to remit loans upto Rs 50 crore. We told you that Rs 22 crore is liability with Cooperative Bank and Rs five crore with Cooperative Societies and not a single penny has been remitted”, he added.
Rana, who criticized the financial polices of the Government, said that instead of paying attention to points raised by opposition, he (Minister) was only passing sermons. The NC MLA was supported by his senior Party colleague Ali Mohammed Sagar who too stood up from his seat and argued with Minister. To counter the NC legislators, PDP’s Javed Ahmed Mir too stood up in support of Minister and retorted on NC members. There were some heated exchanges of words but nothing was heard in the din.
Later both sides pacified and Minister continued his speech. But after some time when Minister referred to SARFAESI Act again pointed towards NC provoking Rana, who said the Minister has a selective memory. He was again joined by Sagar who too entered into arguments with Minister.
Pointing towards Minister, Rana told him “don’t mislead the House”. As NC MLAs targeted Finance Minister, Javed Mir was too on his toes to counter them and he was joined by Minister of Rural Development, Panchayati Raj and Law, Abdul Haq Khan this time who argued with opposition.
The Law Minister tried to explain the Government’s stand on the SARFAESI Act but was interrupted by Sagar again and nothing was heard in the din. Sagar later said being a Law Minister, he was not supposed to give such a statement. Joining him, Rana too started arguments with PDP members and said NC supported the law but was of the opinion that State should bring its own law.
They were countered by other PDP members including Javed Mir, Yawar Mir, Aijaz Mir, Naima Mehjoor and others who exchanged heated words with two NC legislators. The NC members pointing towards Finance Minister and said that he was telling a lie and it has been his habit. “You are trying to be over smart”, Rana told Drabu.
This enraged Javed Mir who strongly argued with NC legislators and went up to Drabu’s seat to protest. Even Speaker, Kavinder Gupta’s repeated pleas failed to pacify the PDP members.
But NC MLA Ali Mohammed Sagar too did not budge and stood by his words targeting the Government. Rana also criticized the Government on GST saying it has no clear cut policy.
However, later Javed Mir and NC members took their seats and order was restored in the House.
Earlier MLA Langate Engineer Rashid protested against the Finance Minister soon after Drabu started his reply and said that he had recently gone to Delhi and he was caught in a jam there. “I tried to enquire from a police officer that why there is such a huge jam and I was replied that Engineer Rashid is protesting”.
This provoked Rashid who stood up from his seat and asked the Minister to take back his remarks which he had made with a delegation of Fruit growers in Srinagar some time back.
There were heated exchanges between Rashid and some PDP members. However, later Minister tendered an apology saying that he apologize if sentiments of Member are hurt.
While replying to debate on Budget, Finance Minister Drabu  said the Government is aiming at streamlining the expenditure under the current Budget with systematic spending initiatives adding that the reforms introduced in the budget are a first step towards bringing economic stability in the State.
“The Government has benefited from the exhaustive discussions on the Budget proposals and various valid points have been made by the members during the debate,” Drabu said.
He said the contribution of the members would come handy for the successful implementation of the reforms and initiatives proposed in the Budget.
Responding to the points raised by the legislators, Drabu said the first budget, presented by this Government, focused on macro-budgetary matters wherein the fiscal strategy was outlined; in the second one, attention was paid to distributive issues pertaining to allocative efficiency. He said present Budget focuses on the micro-budgetary reforms; operations of Government programs and executing agencies.
“This budget is devoted to improving the operational efficiency of spending,” he added.
“We may have political and ideological differences but during the discussion on the budget all the parties came together with their progressive inputs aimed at development and growth of the State,” he said and added that such discussions are essential for successful implementation of economic reforms and policies in the State, and it strengthens the basics of constructive dialogue and debate.
Drabu assured that the funds allocated under this Budget will be released on time and all the formalities will be done in a time-bound manner.
Enumerating on the main proposals of the budget, Finance Minister said an effort has been made to streamline and speed up spending of Government resources for which a timeframe has been set for release of funds. He said 50 percent of funds under the Revenue and Capex budget will be released to various departments by February 10 this year for expenditure to be made from April 1, 2017 adding that it will have great impact on efficient and effective utilization of funds and for the first time, a legislative approval will be sought for the release of said funds.
To overcome the difficulties and shortcomings of current process of budgeting, releasing, and distributing the Budget within the Government authorities and booking the expenditure against the budget, this Budget proposed computerized budgeting system known as “Budget Estimation, Allocation and Monitoring System” (BEAMS) and in next few years, complete change can be witnessed in the whole budget system, he added.
The Finance Minister said the proposal to move away from the old system of Treasuries to Pay and Accounts Offices (PAO) will also help in removing delays and plug leakages in the system.
Speaking about the security cover to the crops against damages from natural disasters including hail, floods, draught etc, Dr Drabu said the Government has formulated a comprehensive insurance scheme for nine crops for which the provision of Rs 75 crore in the budget has been made for the purpose of premium subsidy. Similarly, assets of public importance, Government buildings and vehicles will be provided insurance cover.
Creating a social security system for all the registered construction workers in the State is a major initiative for the welfare of the working class, which will also push financial inclusion and the DBT system, he said adding that by providing insurance cover to these workers, the Government will be covering almost 15 lakh families under the scheme.
The Finance Minister said that the Public Enterprise Reforms proposed in the budget are necessary for their growth and stability. “This budget has initiated the financial reengineering of the PSUs which had been promised by this Government,” he added.
Speaking on the issue of GST, the Finance Minister said that the Government is working out the modalities regarding implementation of  the new regime in GST Council meetings. “We will look in which form we accept it in our State,” he said and added that GST is beneficial for everyone and J&K will examine it closely so that the State gets best out of it.
Drabu said the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as a Chairman of GST Council has taken a cooperative federalist approach towards financial governance and has actively involved and taken inputs from the State Finance Ministers during the financial policy formulation processes and Pre-Union Budget discussions.
Responding to the issue of waiving off of KCC loan, the Finance Minister said that payment of first tranche has been made to 74265 identified borrowers. “By March 31 this year, Rs 250 crore allocated for KCC loan waiver will be distributed to cooperative banks, J&K Grameen Bank and other banks,” he said.
Responding to the issue of regularization of the casual workers of various categories, Drabu said the process will start in the course of the next financial year and the Government is committed to address this social issue on priority.
With regards to the issue of pay anomalies, the Minister said that Government will undertake extensive review and rework to address this concern.
Drabu said that the provision of making an equity infusion of Rs 532 crore is merely an effort to help J&K Bank on its road to recovery and urged the legislators that it should not be seen out as a bailout package. He assured the House on maintaining autonomy of J&K Bank.
Addressing the issues raised by the legislators regarding lack of attention paid to Ladakh region, he announced Rs 2 crore each for Leh & Kargil to clear its past liabilities besides making provisions to include local crops like barley and apricot under the Crop Insurance Schemes.
The Finance Minister thanked the legislators for their valuable inputs and assured no dearth of funds and will meet all budgetary targets and initiatives with the support of all members of the House.

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