Himachal's FY24 budget focuses on restoration of old pension scheme, green initiatives, cow cess
The move to impose Cow cess will fetch additional revenue of Rs 100 crore per annum, Sukhu said
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on Friday presented the budget for 2023-24 with a total outlay of Rs 53,413 crore, announcing women pension, sops for electric vehicles, cow cess on liquor and various other initiatives to become a green state by 2026.
In its maiden budget, the Congress-led government announced the first-of-its-kind cow cess of Rs 10 on the sale of each bottle of liquor, even as it made a stride to fulfil various election promises with announcements like a fixed monthly payment for women and subsidies on electric two-wheelers.
The move to impose Cow cess will fetch additional revenue of Rs 100 crore per annum, Sukhu said.
The chief minister said his government aims to make Himachal Pradesh a green state by 2026 by promoting hydropower and solar energy through the adoption of electric vehicles to check pollution.
Sukhu announced that Himachal Pradesh will be made the model state for adopting electrical vehicles.
A total of 1,500 diesel buses of Himachal Road Transport Corporation will be replaced by electric buses in phases at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore, he said.
Also, a 50 per cent subsidy will be given to youth for setting up charging points.
The state will also provide a 40 per cent subsidy to youth for setting up small hydropower projects of 200 Kw to 2 MW.
Sukhu also announced a subsidy of Rs 25,000 for the purchase of electric two-wheelers for 20,000 girls studying in government schools in the state.
Besides, the government will ensure at least two panchayats in every district be made green panchayats, Sukhu said while presenting the annual budget in the assembly.
The chief minister said that his government will fulfil all the promises made to the people during elections in a phased manner.
In the first phase, 2,31,000 women will get Rs 1,500 per month as promised, he said, adding that the payout will cost Rs 416 crore per year to the state exchequer.
Announcing the restoration of the old pension scheme, another poll promise, the chief minister said it will benefit 1.36 lakh employees.
"We have come to work for the welfare of the people and have restored the old pension scheme benefiting about 1.36 employees of the state," he said.
He also announced that about 30,000 vacant posts in various state government departments will be filled in the coming financial year.
A social security pension has been announced for widows and the disabled, while the Sukhashraya scheme has been launched for orphans.
A housing scheme will also be launched for single women with a provision of up to 40 per cent subsidy, the chief minister said.
The budget has increased the MLA area development fund from Rs 2 crore to Rs 2.10 crore, while the honorarium for panchayat representatives and urban local bodies has also been increased.
The state has also hiked the daily wages under the central government's Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) from Rs 212 to Rs 240.
The chief minister also announced measures to improve healthcare facilities in the state.
Casualty wards in all medical colleges will be upgraded to emergency medicine departments and all five medical colleges will have robotic technology, he said.
One model health institution and one model day-boarding school would be opened in every assembly constituency. Emergency medicine departments will be opened in hospitals to reduce pressure on the emergency ward, while nursing colleges would be opened in three medical colleges, the chief minister said.
In order to boost tourism, Sikhu said that Kangra district will be developed as the tourist capital and all 12 districts will be connected with heliport facilities in the next one year.
Asserting that the government is committed to change the system, Sukhu repeated his resolves several times during his speech, punctuating with Hindi and Urdu couplets.
The chief minister also announced the revival of the Jatia Devi township project and the implementation of a Rs 1,373-crore project with assistance from the central government.
Sukhu also announced up to 80 per cent subsidy to fishermen for taking up various fisheries projects.
The growth of the state's GDP has remained sluggish during 2022-23 and dropped to 6.4 per cent as compared to the 7.6 per cent growth recorded in 2021-22.
The state faces a huge debt of Rs 75,000 crore and other liabilities on account of payment of arrears of revised pay scales and DA amounting to Rs 11,000 crore.
Earlier, supplementary demands for grants for 2022-23 amounting to Rs 13,141 crore were passed by the house on March 15.