Legislature Nod To Rs 44,668 Cr Budget, Rs 462 Cr Worth Supplementary Grants

Legislature Nod To Rs 44,668 Cr Budget, Rs 462 Cr Worth Supplementary Grants

23 February 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: The Legislature today gave its nod to Rs 44,668 crores worth annual budget for 2014-15 bringing to an end week long of debates and replies to the grants by the various Ministers. Both Houses of the Legislature also approved Rs 462.92 crores worth supplementary grants for 2013-14. The Legislative Assembly and Council passed the budget for next financial year and supplementary grants with voice vote after Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather replied to queries raised by the members. Mr Rather had projected 2014-15 annual budget at Rs 43,543 crores. However, while moving Appropriation Bill (also called as the Finance Bill or the Money Bill) in the Legislative Assembly today, he projected the total budget at Rs 44,668 crores. The additional amount of Rs 1125 crores would be kept as suspense or rolling fund for the Departments, which had to use the amount for development works and purchases. This amount is later refunded. The Finance Minister explained that the total budget for 2014-15 would stay at Rs 43,543 crores but an amount of Rs 1125 crores (whose approval was sought in the House through Appropriation bill) would be used by Departments like R&B, CAPD and others to lay roads, purchase ration etc since they didn’t have the amount initially for such purposes. When they get the amount from ration or other such categories, they refund the amount to the Finance Department, he said, adding the budget for 2014-15, thus, would stay at Rs 45,543 crores as projected by him while presenting general budget in the Assembly on February 13. Apart from Rs 44,668 crores worth budget, the Legislature also approved Rs 462 crores worth supplementary grants for 2013-14. The supplementary grants are passed in view of revised estimates for the current financial year. The Legislative Council also approved with voice vote the Appropriation bill for 2014-15 and supplementary grants for 2013-14. Replying to queries raised by NPP leader and former Minister Harshdev Singh in the Assembly before the budget and supplementary grants were passed, Mr Rather turned down the demand for giving exemption to ex-servicemen in VAT for purchase of goods from Canteen Services Depots (CSDs). “Jammu and Kashmir State VAT Act didn’t provide for any exemption particularly dealers specific exemption as opposite to such provision in J&K General Sales Tax Act. The neighbouring States, which were providing such exemption to CSD goods in the pre-VAT regiment and, therefore, it was possible for them to continue with such exemptions under new VAT dispensation. “The tax base of J&K is approximately 1-5th of the States like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Moreover, the number of servicemen-serving as well as retired is higher in case of J&K as compared to the neighbouring States. The present amount of VAT collection of CSD foods are estimated around Rs 60 crores, which is significant resources of the State,’’ Mr Rather said , adding any deviation in VAT regime particularly in respect of CSD foods may lead to diversion of trade. In response to a query of PDP MLA Choudhary Zulfikar, the Finance Minister observed that there was no need for the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to set up Overseas Corporation for the welfare of labourers. He said: “the Jammu and Kashmir State Overseas Employment Corporation Limited has been created and incorporated as a public limited company with an authorized capital of Rs 5 crores. The Corporation is in the process of contracting foreign Embassies for empanelling itself as recruiting agency for their respective Governments. All the welfare measures pertaining to Labourers are already being looked after by the Protector General of Emigrants under the aegis of Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), Government of India. Therefore, there is no need for the Government of J&K to set up Overseas Corporation for the welfare of labourers. In response to another question of Zulfikar, Mr Rather said the Health Department is already providing free health care facilities to the people of the State in general and BPL patients in particular in all hospitals of the State as per the Essential Drug List (EDL) and availability of drugs in the Government hospitals. Responding to another question of Harshdev Singh for delay in development of Industrial Estate at Tajur Majalta, Mr Rather said the land measuring 203 kanals has been handed over to SICOP for establishing the Industrial Estate at Tajur Majalta. “After taking over the possession of the land, a Detailed Project Report for an amount of Rs 2211.65 lakh has been prepared which included civil works, power supply and water supply scheme. Out of 203 kanals, the area under plots is 119 kanals comprising 31 units of different sizes ranging from 1 to 4 kanals. Area under green patches if 14 kanals and balance area has been kept for road, drains and retaining walls,’’ he added. In response to a query of CPM MLA MY Tarigami on releasing state share for enhancement in honorarium of Anganwari Workers and Helpers on the analogy of Haryana, the Finance Minister said: “the State Government has in the year 2012 revised the rate of honorarium by Rs 1500 per month in favour of Anganwari workers and Rs 750 per month in favour of Anganwari Helpers.. The pattern of the share on account of honorarium is 90:10 between Centre and State. “The State in addition to its share is contributing approximately 15 per cent in excess to the State share on this account. There is, therefore, no proposal regarding revision of the State share presently under consideration of the State Government.’’ In response to questions of PDP MLA Rafi Ahmad Mir, Mr Rather said the Government has spent Rs 467 lakh till March 2013 and released Rs 20.91 lakh during current financial year for construction of Aishmuqam Saller bridge. For seer Nambal bridge, Rs 261.91 lakh have been spent till March 2013 and Rs 16.46 lakh have been released during current fiscal year so far. To the query of Mr Tarigami, Mr Rather said the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has conveyed the approval of Mission Steering Group (MSG) of the National Health Mission (NHM) to the revision of rates of the existing ASHA workers’ incentives including enhancement of cost norm from Rs 10,000 to Rs 16,000 per ASHA per year, which included training cost, supervision-support costs, cost of job aids, tools-kits and other monetary incentives. “In addition, incentives for some new activities have also been approved enabling each ASHA to earn incentive of about at least Rs 1000 per month. The requirement of funds, as per the revised cost norm including incentives for new activities, is being projected in the State Programme Implementation Plan of NRHM for 2014-15,’’ he said. To a query of NPP MLA Balwant Singh Mankotia on inordinate delay to complete Udhampur town Water Supply Scheme, Mr Rather said the Scheme costing Rs 28.82 crores was taken up in two phases. The first phase costing Rs 24.30 crores with a capacity of 1.6 million gallons-day from the right bank of Tawi river has been commissioned in May 2012. However, he added, the Phase-II of the Scheme costing Rs 4.52 crores, which envisaged intake of water from the fore-bay of Chenani Hydel Project couldn’t be started as the JKPDC didn’t give the NOC for drawing water from the fore-bay of the said hydel project. “Subsequently, after the joint inspection by the senior officers of the PHE Department as well as by the MD JKPDC, it has been decided that the water will be drawn for this phase upstream to escape channel of the said project as drawn water downstream the escape channel would have interfered with the flow of raw water for the said scheme when the PDC conducts annual repairs of the project. Presently, a request for formal permission has been sent to MD JKPDC and necessary formal permission is awaited,’’ the Finance Minister said.