Incentives for girl child, industries, smart cities in Kashmir budget

Jammu : Jammu and Kashmir’s budget for 2015-16 proposes abolition of water tax, cash stipends for young girls and continuing VAT remission to industries till uniform GST comes into force in the country.

Presenting the proposals on Sunday, Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu said the Rs.46,473 crore-expenditure budget also proposes development of Jammu and Srinagar cities as smart cities in the state.

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Drabu proposed abolition of the archaic water tax called ‘Abiyana’, setting up of modern looms for carpet weavers, floating of Dal development bonds for preservation of the world-famous Dal Lake in the state and payment of Rs.1,000 monthly to a girl child from birth till she attains the age of 14.

The Dal development bonds would be available for investment to non-locals as well.

Other highlights include setting up of a special department for uplift of tribal communities in the state, a modern Basmati rice village in Jammu, apple and saffron villages in Kashmir and an apricot village in Ladakh region, while exempting irrigation hand pumps from VAT and toll tax as an incentive to farmers.

Drabu also proposed allowing chartered aircraft to fly in tourists from Delhi to overcome high costs of tickets during peak tourist season.

For industrial purchases, the budget proposes a cashless system of VAT remission with budgetary support for revival of sick industrial units in the state.

The proposals also include release of Rs.2,200 crore as dearness allowance to state government employees.

Drabu said the budget’s structure has been changed following the replacement of Planning Commission by NITI Aayog and the acceptance of the 14th Finance Commission award, to make the state perhaps the first in the country to align its budget to the changes in the federal fiscal system.

He said he had decided to discard the entire old classification of the plan and non-plan in his proposals, and from 2015-16, the budget will now have only two parts — the receipts budget and the expenditure budget — with the latter only having the revenue and capital expenditure estimates.

Drabu placed total revenue receipts in 2015-16 at Rs.42,137 crores leaving a resource gap of Rs.4,336 crore, which “is going to be financed by prepositioning of the 14th Finance Commission grants without seeking any additional funding”.

He said that of the budgeted Rs.46,473 crore expenditure, Rs.11,246 crore would be used to build assets and infrastructure, while the remaining Rs.35,227 crore is for current or revenue expenditure.

“This is not a good position to be in. In fact, if anything, it should be exactly the other way round. But there is no way I can help it as it is a legacy of the last 30 years if not more.

“The problem is very simple and all the honourable legislators must appreciate it: To spend Rs.10,000 crore on the economy, the government is spending nearly three times that amount on the machinery that spends the Rs.10,000 crore,” he said.

On last year’s floods, he said the devastation seen is huge “but there is a greater hit. The impact of these floods is that the process of income generation has been disrupted”.

Drabu said he is exploring the possibility of getting the state declared as an area where all bank lending would classify as priority sector lending, and has approached the Reserve Bank of India for this purpose and is waiting for the response.

“If that happens, it would not only increase the amount of bank lending in J&K but would also reduce the lending rates by 300 to 400 basis points,” he said.