Opposition Congress in Jammu and Kashmir today criticised the state budget, alleging it lacks vision or direction to steer the state out of the “economic problems”.
“The budget presented by Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu yesterday has no vision or direction to deal with economic problems of the state,” party MLA Nawang Rigzin Jora said during general discussion on the budget proposals in the state Assembly here. Congress leader also hit out at the Finance Minister for raking up the provident fund mismanagement over the past 30 years in the state.
“You were the economic advisor to two Chief Ministers (Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad from 2002 to 2008). Why did you not make the suggestions (on managing provident fund) then?” Jora said. In his budget speech, Drabu criticised the way the provident fund of government employees was handled in the past saying it was a classic case of “Ponzi game”.
Jora said the government should move beyond a few small steps taken for the welfare of women folk and introduce gender budgeting in the state. “When I said move beyond constructing toilets and police stations (for women), I did not mean to say that don’t do these things. The government should have gone for gender budgeting. Fifty per cent of your population is women. Create a cell in the planning department and make 50 per cent fund allocation for women in the budget,” he said.
Congress leader also criticised the power budget, saying the government should have focused on utilising the substantial amount from Rs 80,000 crore package announced by the Prime Minister for development of Jammu and Kashmir, for setting up new power projects in the state. “Why not take Rs 20,000 crore from the PMDP and set up three or four new power projects with 1000 megawatt capacity each in the state?” he said.
Jora alleged that the state was “cheated” in the package announced by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for Jammu and Kashmir in 2004. “We were cheated last time. Out of the Rs 25,000 crore package, Rs 14,000 crore were taken by NHPC in the name of Jammu and Kashmir,” he added. Jora also asked the state Finance Minister to roll back the five per cent hike in the levy on Aviation Turbine Fuel, saying it would make air travel to Kashmir much more expensive.
“Kashmir is not the only place that people can visit. You have to make the place affordable for tourists to come here. More and more people today travel by air and you cannot make it more expensive by hiking the ATF levy,” he added. Devinder Rana of National Conference also criticised the budget proposals saying it was just a jugglery of words.
“The issue of PF and investigation cost for police was just a diversionary tactic,” he said. Rana said if the Finance Minister believed that the Provident Fund was a ‘Ponzi game’, why did he put the Dearness Allowance instalment of the employees in this fund.