J&K Showers Rural Poll Sops7 March 2011
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
Srinagar: Sops are raining in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of next month’s panchayat elections, being held in the state after 11 years. The Omar Abdullah government’s budget proposals today had major concessions for all. The biggest beneficiaries are the four lakh-plus state government employees and the lakhs of pensioners, who have received a 10 per cent hike in dearness allowance from July 2010. It will leave the state government poorer by Rs 700 crore a year, apart from costing it Rs 500 crore in arrears. The budget projects the total expenditure at Rs 31,212 crore, of which Rs 14,010 crore will go towards salaries and pension. The state will earn Rs 9,131 crore - less than 30 per cent of the expenditure -from all its resources, including tax and non-tax revenue and its share in central taxes. As in the past, a generous grant - of more than Rs 17,000 crore - will keep the state’s finances afloat. The government has announced several schemes for the agriculture, horticulture and dairy sectors. A nearly 100 per cent VAT subsidy has been announced on micro-irrigation, including drip and sprinkler systems. Pesticides, insecticides and weed killers have been exempted from VAT. There is a Rs 6-crore subsidy for 1,000 private sheep farming units. Greenhouses have been given a 10.5 per cent exemption from the goods and services tax (GST) to promote agriculture, horticulture and floriculture. The government has offered toll exemption on milch animals to promote dairies, and also to the rearing of poultry and sheep and to beehives and bee colonies. Around Rs 100 crore has been earmarked for new initiatives in remote areas. The handloom and handicrafts industries, which form the backbone of the state’s rural economy, have benefited with the monthly stipends for trainees in two categories being raised from Rs 100 to Rs 500 and from Rs 200 to Rs 700. Around Rs 10 crore has been earmarked to provide interest subsidies in the handicrafts sector. The loan slab for artisans is up from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh. The VAT remission for industry has been extended for another year, which will cost the exchequer Rs 500 crore. The GST exemption on hotel rent has been extended till March 2012 to boost tourism. Finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather said government initiatives would have had a greater and more visible impact had certain elements not disrupted peace and progress and repeatedly distracted the authorities from focusing on development and administration.