J&K getting less plan, falling in debt trap: Baig

J&K getting less plan, falling in debt trap: Baig

6 March 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Former Finance Minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig today described the general budget 2012-13 presented by Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather in the Legislative Assembly yesterday as ‘directionless, misleading, incoherent, contradictory and jugglery of words’. He said the National Conference, which has presented 28 budgets from 1975 to 2012, 12 of which were presented by Mr Rather alone, can’t escape the responsibility of sorry state of affairs in the State in many sectors including finance, power and health. Initiating discussion on budget in the Assembly, Mr Baig in his 106 minutes long speech said Mr Rather has failed to give any vision or direction to the State in his budget. 'The bad financing could be very well gauged from the fact that funding in some district hospitals has been given in such a way that it would take 10 to 25 years for them to complete’’, he added. Quoting figures from Rather’s budget and pre-budget economic survey, Mr Baig, who had presented four budgets during PDP-Congress coalition Government headed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad and had initiated the process of presenting zero deficit budgets, which was picked up by subsequent Finance Ministers and continued since then, took on the Government for poor financing of health sector, which was directly connected with lives of the citizens. He said the way the funds have been allocated, it would take 45 years for completion of District Hospital in Kulgam, 27 years in Anantnag, 24 years each in Rajouri and Ganderbal, 18 years in Srinagar and eight to nine years in Reasi and Doda while the hospital of Shopian would never be completed as it got no funds. 'The Finance Minister should have taken care of Ganderbal at least as Chief Minister (Omar Abdullah) had to contest election there again’’, he quipped. Pointing out regional disparities in the Government, Mr Baig wondered how the districts like Kishtwar, Doda, Kupwara, Bandipora, Rajouri and Poonch would develop with no significant representation in the Ministry. 'There should be regional participation. The regions should have full sense of participation in the Government’’, he said. Coming to power scenario, the PDP leader wondered what the people would do to electric blankets if there was no power in the State. He was referring to lifting of 13.5 per cent VAT on electric blankets in the budget proposals of Mr Rather. He said the Government was on record having issued schedule of eight to 10 hours long power cuts in the Kashmir valley. 'Instead, the Government should have reduced the rates of ‘kangris’, which were more useful for the people of Kashmir during the winter instead of electric blankets’’, the former Finance Minister said. 'Isn’t it a mockery with the people’’? he asked and noted that even Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was seen laughing from his speech when Mr Rather referred to withdrawal of VAT from electric blankets. He claimed that Omar was also seen laughing when Mr Rather announced five per cent increase in tax on tobacco and liquor. He claimed that even BJP MLA Ashok Khajuria had welcome increase of tax on tobacco but remained silent when it was raised on liquor. However, Mr Baig withdrew his statement following objections by Mr Khajuria. Noting that the Government has projected power purchase bill for next financial year at ' 3001 crore as against ' 3000 crore for current financial year, Mr Baig said the bill has doubled since the PDP dispensation was in power. The Government has no achievement to show except for few ‘Gobar Gas Plants’ and ‘Smokeless Chullahs’, he regretted. Recalling that during Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad led regimes from 2002 to 2008 the Ministers and the Secretaries used to personally monitor the power scenario, he alleged that there was no such system in the present Government and the people had to face acute problems on account of electricity shortage. Justifying his statement that Mr Rather has misled the House and resorted to jugglery of words, Mr Baig said at one page, the Finance Minister has claimed that the Government would get 76 per cent of ' 1457 crore revenue target from power while on another page it maintained that it would achieve 100 per cent target. He said during PDP-Congress Government, there was massive increase in installation of electronic meters but 'the process has come to a standstill during the present regime. No reforms were visible in power or, for that matter, in any other sectors’’. Scoffing at Mr Rather’s claim of increase in tax revenue from ' 3500 crore to ' 4800 crore, the PDP leader pointed out that every time the officers fixed less target of taxes and when they exceeded the target, they claimed credit for it. He said the tax based had increase by 101.87 per cent during the PDP regime. He added that during two years of PDP Government, tax base had increase by 20.4 per cent while it has increased by 13.4 per cent in present NC regime in the equal period. 'Such was the position of the present Government that they have even shown issuance of supply orders and inviting tenders and proformas for works as their achievements’’, Mr Baig said. He said there had been no measures to check Transmission and Distribution (T&D) losses, which stood at 62.2 per cent and Collection Losses, which were 12.18 per cent. He described as ‘arbitrary, illegal and slendor campaign’ that the Ministers owed several lakhs to the PDD. He wanted to know how many cases have been registered by the Government and arrests made for violations of electricity laws. He added that keeping ' 50 crore or ' 100 crore for the welfare of Gujjar and Bakerwals, Paharis and other backward classes was not going to make any difference. The Government should have come out with a comprehensive plan to uplift the standard of backward and down trodden people, he said. Referring to the report submitted by the Finance Commission, Mr Baig said if there was no consensus among the members, the Government should have rejected the report and appointed neutral experts. Noting that the State was falling into debt trap with approximate ' 31,000 crore worth debt already, he said a day could come when the Centre would have to take more from the State than what they gave us in the form of grants. The Government should take measures to come out of the debt trap, he said. Mr Baig pointed out that there had been no mention of Additional Resources Mobilisation (ARMs) in the budget excepting five per cent increase in taxes on liquor and tobacco. 'The State is falling into fiscal trap. The Finance Minister should have given a direction to State by announcing fiscal reforms, no matter if they were hard. The Finance Minister had to maintain discipline and not act only like a politician’’, he said, adding it was statutory responsibility of the Finance Minister to find out a solution to the debt trap, announce a road map for discipline and not sell dreams, which can’t be realized. On the Finance Minister’s claim of growth in Gross State Domestic Product, he said the figures had been calculated at old prices of 2004-05, which was nothing but jugglery of words. Referring to Central grant of ' 250 crore for Ladakh and Jammu regions, the PDP leader said even this amount the State had been asked to sanction from the plan though it was earlier announced as a special grant. He said there had been no mention as to where this grant would be spent. He said Anantnag, Budgam, Kupwara, erstwhile Doda, Rajouri and Poonch were poor districts and required more attention. He pooh-poohed the Government’s claims of receiving liberal funds from the Central Government saying the State was getting ' 5160 per person in the plan as against ' 7646 given to other State at the national level. He wanted to know the funds claimed under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes and their expenditure. Mr Baig said the interest paid on market borrowings by the Government after switching over to new system of Ways and Means with the RBI would have gone to J&K Bank (in the old system) and 51 per cent of the amount would have returned to the State. Speaking on ‘hollow promises’ in the budget, Mr Baig cited a couplet ‘Tere Wade Pay Chale Hum, To Yeh Jaan Yoon Na Jana; Kay Khushi Se Mar Na Jaate Agar Aitbaar Hota’. He quoted another couplet in his speech including ‘Aah Ko Chahiye Ek Umar Asar Hone Tak, Kaun Jeeta Hai Tere Zulf Ke Sar Hone Tak’. In view of setback to Congress in Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, Mr Baig today said the regional parties are ‘emerging stronger’ than national political parties. ‘In recent days, a trend has been set that regional political parties are becoming stronger than national parties and this is the reason, they are emerging victorious,’ Mr Baig told reporters after his speech in the Assembly. The former Deputy Chief Minister said, 'regional parties understand local issues and they are closely associated with the people at ground level.' ‘’But national parties have to think in a broader perspective and deal with the issues of national interest, which somewhere affects them,' the PDP leader added. He however, said he was surprised to see Congress performance despite AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi factor in Uttar Pradesh. Taking part in discussion on budget, NC chief whip and Advisor to Chief Minister Mubarak Gul described the budget a vision document, taking care of all the development needs of the State. He said the State has vast resources which needed to explored constructively. He added that the State Government should approach the Union Government for waiving off the debt to come out from fiscal deficits. Mr. Gul said besides keeping special package for facilitating the farming community, provision for certain programmes like UDAAN and SKEWPY have been kept in the budget to tackle un-employment problem. He welcomed the step of the Government for extending one year tax exemption for the development and promotion of industry in the State. He hailed the step of tourism package and said that it would help in promotion of tourism sector. He also sought action against some Private Finance Companies, alleging that these companies are looting the people. Ashok Kumar (Congress MLA from Ramban) appreciated the Government for enhancing the honorarium of Numberdars and Chowkidars, raising of allocation in Beti-Anmol and exemption of VAT for pesticides. He stressed the need for opening of and up gradation of schools under SSA and RMSA and setting up of Polytechnic and ITI colleges in remote and far-off areas to benefit the people of these areas. He demanded opening of Bal-Ashram and model colleges in Batote, Kastigarh and Assar areas of Ramban district. Appreciating the granting incentives for the promotion of tourism sector, he pleaded for bringing some areas of his constituency under the ambit of this scheme. He called for up gradation of infrastructure, adequate staff and provision of critical care ambulance in trauma hospitals, engagement of local trained youth in local developmental projects and enhancement of honorarium of SPOs and PA to MLAs.