Examiner Bureau| Jammu:
Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu on Thursday presented his fourth budget in the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly, Drabu said that after three years of backend work on the finance department, it is now the time to bear the fruits.
“We have worked tirelessly to improve and streamline the system. Now we don’t see employees on streets asking for the salary. We don’t see employees being baton charged of water cannoned for the release of their salaries. Now salaries are released on time. We have streamlined the system in the last three years,” he said, receiving a round of applause from the treasury benches.
The Finance Minister said the government would also provide the social security system to commercial contractors as the government has already asked the Jammu and Kashmir bank to issue credit ATM cards to these commercial contractors.
He also announced the hike in daily wages of skilled workers from Rs 50 to Rs 225 and increase wages for highly skilled workers to Rs 400 a day.
He said the unmarried daughters of the employees, who were hitherto not entitled to receive pension, have now been made eligible to receive pension once the employee and his/her spouse is no more.
Apart from this, the abolition of the basic toll on all non-commercial, private light motor vehicles is proposed. It is decided to abolish toll on the export of all types of fruits produced within the State. To extend relief to the general commuters/ transporters, it is decided to abolish Lower Munda and Heerpur Toll Posts, Drabu added.
The highlights of the budget are:
- Reforms have now set the stage for meaningful public policy interventions.
- Green shoots of the fiscal order have been seen because of the systematic changes made so far.
- Fiscal deficit previously estimated at around 9.5 percent has actually turned out to be around 5.7 percent.
- The minimum wages of unskilled workers were raised from Rs. 150 to Rs. 225, while those of skilled labour to Rs. 350 from Rs. 225. A new category of highly skilled worker was introduced and Rs. 400 was fixed as the minimum wage.
- The lives of construction workers have been insured, protected them against disability, disease and death, provided for their children’s education and given them access to small credit. I am sure this will make life simpler and more secure for 3 lakh families; i.e. 15 lakh people.
- Good finance is not an end in itself; it is a means to a social and humanitarian end. This is especially so in J&K which has gone through unimaginable troubled times.
- The strict discipline of no re-appropriation after December 31st, 2017 has resulted in more than 50 percent of the outlays being spent by December 31st, 2017.
- With the budgetary edifice in place, now is the time to consolidate the fiscal and budgetary reforms at the departmental level sustained and self-generating efficiency gains.
- With the complete revamp of the corporate governance structure of the J&KSPDC, along with a refurbished balance sheet, a large equity base and a slew of projects in the pipeline, J&KSPDC will be all set to grow and compete with the J&K Bank Ltd for the top slot profitable company owned by the J&K Government.
- J&K State Finance Corporation has issued a share buyback offer and has got a good and unexpectedly good response.
- The finance department has initiated the process of financial engineering in Public Enterprises. J&KSPDC, for instance, has made considerable progress towards financial engineering and their Balance sheet at the end of the year will show that the Corporation a debt-free company.
- Handicraft Development and Handloom Development Corporations shall be provided with Rs 5 crore each for raw material and inventory up-gradation.
- The SRTC is up for focussed attention and in the course of this year, it shall be our endeavor to strengthen its balance sheet and clear off its liabilities before showcasing it for a public-private partnership while retaining majority control.
- Announced release of 1 percent Dearness Allowance announced due to the employees from 1st July 2017.
- The Government recently reduced the eligibility for the full pension from 33 years of qualifying service to 20 years of qualifying service, benefitting more than half of the number of employees on the rolls.
- Unmarried daughters of the employees, who were hitherto not entitled to receive the pension, have now been made eligible to receive pension once the employee and his/her spouse is no more.
- It is proposed to enhance the Deposit Linked Insurance of GP Fund subscribers from Rs.10 lakh to Rs.50 lakh. Similar Scheme shall be framed for the employees covered under NPS.
- All the Government employees including pensioners, along with 5 family members, shall be covered under improved and enhanced Group Mediclaim Insurance Policy. Given the fact that there are 4.5 lakh employees, and about 1.5 lakh pensioners, this insurance cover extends to about 30 lakh people.
- Personal Accidental Insurance from Rs.5.00 lakh to Rs.10.00 lakhs has been increased.
- “Assured Career Progression Scheme” for all the Gazetted cadres of engineering departments has been proposed in the Budget 2018-19.
- It is proposed to extend the benefit of Assured Career Progression to other technical cadres like Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal & Sheep Husbandry etc.
- The government will consider providing the alternate incentive in lieu of CST to the industrial units in the State.
- The State Government shall also provide freight subsidy to the industrial units located in the State and be transporting their manufactured goods beyond 1000 kilometers outside the state.
- The State Government shall make the available refund of SGST to all the industrial units, which were hitherto eligible for VAT exemption.
- It is decided to treat hotels and resorts at par with the industries as far as payment of power tariff is concerned. From 1st April 2018, they will now have to pay the same power tariff as is applicable to the Industries.
- It is also decided to rollout a “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.
- It is proposed to grant the one-time waiver of Rs. 147.23 lakh on soft loans provided under erstwhile Prime Minister’s Package in respect of 19 Houseboat owners, who had taken such loans from Banks other than J&K Bank and SBI.
- It is proposed to grant the waiver of penalty and interest on arrears of tax in respect of all the dealers registered under the provisions of J&K Value Added Tax, 2005 and J&K General Sales Tax Act, 1962.
- Interest and penalty on all the power arrears owed to the Government by the industrialists and hoteliers and tourist resort owners shall be waived off.
- Under Amnesty Scheme for the transport sector, interest and penalty on past arrears of token and passenger tax from 1st July 2016 to 31st March 2017 to be waived off.
- Education loans available from banks have the repayments deferred till completion, of course, the interest during the moratorium period is back-breaking for most of the students.
- More trades having entry qualification as 8th pass, both under NCVT/SCVT norms, be introduced.
- Every transgender shall be treated as living under BPL unless indicated otherwise.
- Free life and medical insurance cover and a monthly sustenance pension on the pattern of old age pension scheme for all transgender people above the age of 60 who are registered with the social welfare department are proposed.
- It is proposed to support the creation of a Common Facility Centre for Cricket Bat Industry at Sethar, Anantnag by making an attractive public-private partnership offer.
- It is decided to facilitate setting up of walnut processing units in the private sector through an enabling interest subvention scheme.
- The small initiative of setting up of a community-based marketing network to encourage saffron growers to go back to the traditional system of cultivation, for which I am earmarking Rs. 5 crore is also proposed.
- It is proposed to set aside a sum of Rs.25.00 crore to finance orchard re-plantation/ high-density plantation initiative.
- In the interim, till the scheme to facilitate private players to establish more CA stores in the State is designed and operationalised, a scheme for the hiring of CA stores in the areas adjacent to the NCR by the horticulture department for the use of apple growers of the state.
- Setting up of a J&K Renewal Energy Corporation which will catalyze the development of renewable energy resources is also proposed.
- Capital infusion of Rs. 255 crore in Anantnag Central Cooperative Bank, Baramulla Central Cooperative Bank, and Jammu Central Cooperative Bank is proposed.
- It is decided to set up a Disaster Mitigation Fund with an initial corpus of Rs. 10.00 crore.
- It is proposed to frame a uniform Employment Code for the State, containing all the labour laws in force in the State. The proposed Employment Code shall set out the framework for terms of employment and service of all the workers except domestic workers and agricultural labour and a strong, independent and separate labour judiciary.
- Government is required to constitute a State Finance Commission in terms of the Jammu and Kashmir State Finance Commission for Panchayats and Municipalities Act, 2011.
- A committee of officers and professionals in the area of taxation and industry has been constituted to work out the framework for bringing real estate, electricity, alcohol, and Petroleum a J&K GST.
- It is proposed to bring electricity under the ambit of our GST. The reason being that under GST Input Tax Credit can be availed for electricity. This will boost the industrial sector and also encourage investment in power projects in the State.
- It is decided to do away with the toll on vegetables, medicines, sugar, salt, tea, soaps/detergents, sanitary items, water coconut, wheat seeds, tree spray oil, newsprint, Jaggery (Gur).