Sanjeev Pargal /
JAMMU, Jan 12: National Conference leader Devender Singh Rana, MLA Nagrota today led the Opposition attack on Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu’s general budget for 2017-18, presented in the Legislative Assembly yesterday, describing Drabu as “dream merchant’’ and his budget as “far away from the ground realities’’.
In his hard-hitting 55-minutes speech in the Legislative Assembly while initiating debate on the budget during which he tore into the budgetary proposals, one by one, Rana listed a number of proposals of previous two budgets of Drabu, which haven’t been fulfilled even today when he has presented his third budget. He took strong exception to some of the ruling party MLAs trying to shift blame on previous dispensation saying this was third budget of PDP-BJP coalition and now they have to take blame for their failures instead of shifting it to previous Government.
This was for the first time when main Opposition party, the National Conference, fielded Devender Singh Rana as its main speaker on the budget. Not only the Opposition but even some ruling party members went up to Rana and congratulated him on his speech.
Former Works Minister and PDP leader Altaf Bukhari endorsed the statement of Rana that Rs 450 crores worth liabilities created during his tenure were not being cleared by the Government.
“Yes. Liabilities were created in execution of work. I too want to say that this Government is not clearing the liabilities,’’ Bukhari intervened.
Describing Drabu’s budget as “full of lies’’, Rana said the people have become wiser to understand the lies.
“There is nothing for unemployed youth in the budget. There are no reforms…no steps to boost economy…this is your third budget…writing stories won’t do…this is extremely disappointing budget for majority of sections of people,’’ Rana said.
Asserting that this was the time for “fire fighting’’ and taking immediate measures to bring Jammu and Kashmir out of morass, Rana regretted that the Finance Minister has completely failed in taking any kind of urgent measures to boost economy, help the suffering people and take steps towards progress.
Referring to Drabu’s claim that even New Delhi would follow the steps taken by him in the budget, the National Conference leader wondered: “how Delhi can follow such type of approach in which there was nothing for the common man? If they follow, it would be bad’’.
He said just like Drabu had talked of privatization of State Motor Garages in previous budget but then nothing happened, similar could be the fate of State Power Development Corporation to whom the Finance Minister has proposed as another bank for the State Government.
Rana said in his first budget, Haseeb Drabu had proposed to restore pristine glory of Dal lake in Srinagar.
“Now it is your third budget. What has happened to that proposal? The pristine glory of Dal lakh hasn’t been restored even today,’’ he regretted.
He mentioned yet another announcement of Drabu made in the first budget regarding enhancement of widow pension to Rs 1000 per month and said the widows were still awaiting the hike in their pension.
Referring to the budgetary proposal on 61,000 casual workers, Rana said this was the third time when Drabu was announcing constitution of a committee of great knowledgeable persons under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary for looking into their regularizations.
“Give the casual workers their due. Mere repeated announcements of setting up the Committees won’t do,’’ he lamented.
Rana said the Finance Minister has also failed to fulfill his promise on Kissan Credit Cards.
On Government proposal on GST, Rana wanted to know from the Finance Minister as to why the opposition hasn’t been taken into confidence.
“What it will be all about? Whether it will be the same GST as is being implemented in various States? Whether you will surrender the rights of the State? We must be taken into confidence,’’ he said, adding there was a provision in the European Union for a separate GST like Act and the experiment can be repeated in the State.
He said the content of the budget presented by the Government is copied from the ‘Internet’ and already submitted in its proposals by other states.
“You have copied the budget content and speech from the Internet and the proposals made and offered in it, are already submitted by some other states of the country,” Rana said and handed over printed copies to Speaker Kavinder Gupta claiming that J&K budget is ‘downloaded’ from various sites on Internet.
“You offered only dreams in your three budgets but failed to fulfill the promises made,’’ he said and added that this year’s budget is also not up to the expectations of the people.
The NC leader rued the Finance Minister for eroding the values through stories and never allowed the truth to come out.
“I know being an economist, you (yourself)..are not convinced with the budget and you are claiming that your pre-budget proposals were accepted by the Union Government,’’ Rana said.
Participating in the debate, G M Saroori of Congress criticized the Finance Minister for reading the budget speech in English and said it should have been read in Urdu.
He accused the Minster of neglecting the far-flung areas in the budget and demanded that besides, conducting pre budget meetings with representatives of trade and industry, the Finance Minister should also have consulted the legislators to seek their views.
He alleged that no project was taken up in hand under CRF and NABARD in Doda and road connectivity is 20 percent in the State and without proper road connectivity there can be no development. No proper funding has been allotted for hilly areas for road connectivity when ten times more funds are needed for construction of a road there due to terrain topography than plain areas, he added.
He said Saffron production in Kishtwar is in shambles as no attention has been paid to it and total production from 50 quintals produced in the district has been reduced to 30 kgs now. The Singpora (Kishtwar) Vailoo (Anantnag) Tunnel has been put in limbo though it would have shortened distance to Kashmir and also can become an alternative route for Amarnath pilgrims.
However hailing the budget proposals BJP MLA from Ramnagar R S Pathania said that the present budget is challenging and a trend-setter. This budget will be a role model as many land mark steps have been taken by Finance Minister, he added.
He, while appreciating the decision to pay wages to the SSA, RAMSA, contractual and other employees in time stressed that minimum wages act be strictly implemented while releasing their pending arrears and they be paid their all pending dues before regularization.
Stressing in removal of various bottlenecks, he demanded that the public private investment be enhanced and attention be paid towards the Skill Development -a Vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However he regretted that less amount has been earmarked for SC,ST and OBCs welfare and J&K is a tail-ender in this regard.
Spending in this sector is 0.2 percent which is a meager amount as compared to other states of country where allocation is much higher. Likewise, the Agriculture and Irrigation too needed boost. In these two sectors also the State is tail ender, he added.
He said while tax has been exempted on walnut but the mango and pears which are grown in kandi belt of Jammu have not been considered. Government announced Kissan Credit cards but farmers’ loans have not been waived off so far, Pathania added.
Maintaining that he has a strong dissent and which he will express seriously, Pathania alleged that far-flung areas have been totally neglected in the budget.
However taking note of Pathania’s concern over less allocations made for the SCs, STs and OBCs in the budget , the Deputy Speaker Nazir Ahmed Gurezi issued directions to Government that allocations in this sector be enhanced.
NC’s Mubarak Gul who also did not find anything worthwhile in the budget said how the Government can meet the budget proposals when Centre has not made allocations as Union Budget will be presented in March.
There was unrest for six months in Kashmir valley and every one was hit but no compensation has been announced in budget. Business community and traders who were hit by floods and strike have been ignored in budget, he added.
Gul said J&K is not a poor State but it needs proper resource mobilization as State has to pay a huge amount for power deficit and regularization of casual laborers is nothing new as they gave land to Government. The Government totally ignored the unemployed youth which is a serious issue, he added.
Haji Asgar Ali Karblaie of Congress while participating in the discussions turned tables on Government for neglecting the Ladakh region in this budget and said what has happened to the slogan “Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas”, he asked that don’t Ladakhis have any right?
He said out of 80,000 crore budget Ladakh got only 90 crore which is a cause of concern as the area of Ladakh is 14000 sq kms. He wanted to know that how this small amount can help in developing Ladakh region and how it will be utilized.
He said in last year Budget Government announced Apricot Village in Kargil but no mention of same in the present budget as no incentive or grant was kept for the same.
Raja Manzoor Ahmad while supporting the budget presented by the Finance Minister, Drabu said the special provision has been kept for the transport sector and other sectors. He termed the decision on regularization of the contractual, daily wagers as revolutionary, which would solve the long pending demand of these daily rated workers. He also hailed the establishment of the Press Club in Srinagar besides increase in the advertisement rates for newspapers and periodicals.
Choudhary Sukhnandan Kumar congratulated the Finance Minister for presenting people friendly budget.
He appreciated the Finance Minister for announcing exemption of toll tax on various edible items and called for exemption on toll of Basmati rice. He favoured Market Intervention Scheme in Agriculture sector. He called for providing special power supply for the use of agricultural purposes. He called for keeping provision for the Anganwari workers and Aasha workers of the State.
Hakeem Muhammad Yasin Shah said there should have been a mention of provision for the Anganwari and Aasha workers. He lauded the Finance Minister on various points, saying that many schemes and DPRs were approved without any further delay which really benefitted the State. He said the process shouldn’t be stalled by delaying financial concurrence in future also.
He said the issue of casual labourers, daily-rated workers and daily wagers should be solved without any political interest and interference. He said there is no mention of how the farmers would avail the subsidy on fertilizers, pesticides and other allied agriculture and horticulture inputs.
Aijaz Ahmad Khan criticized the budget for ignoring the vital sectors of industry and agriculture. He called for taking long-term measures for bringing back these key sectors on the track.
He complimented the Government for giving a liquidity infusion to the Jammu and Kashmir Bank and also called for devising a mechanism by which the institution can provide loans and insurance cover to the farmers as well as to the agricultural sector.
Mian Altaf Ahmad, while taking part in the debate called for early implementation of the 7th Pay Commission recommendations, asking the Finance Minister to set a deadline in this regard. He said that 7th Pay Commission recommendations should be implemented form June this year so that the employees of the State too avail the benefits like the employees of the other states of the country. He also called for relaxing the norms of the loans to be given to the youth and aspiring entrepreneurs. He asked the Government to translate their plans on the ground. He said that schemes shouldn’t only remain confined to the books but also reach the people.
Shah Muhammad Tantray, while complimenting the Finance Minister, Dr Haseeb Drabu for presenting a “revolutionary” budget, said that it would address every grey area in the State. He said following the footsteps of former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the Government has taken every measure to develop district Poonch.
Dalip Singh Parihar, while lauding the Finance Minister for his approach to revamp the economical profile of the State, said that the Budget would further raise the socio-economic status of the people of the State. He congratulated Drabu for the decision to regularize over 60000 casual, daily-rated and daily wagers. He also called for the enhancement of CDF upto Rs 4 crore.