By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Feb 2 (IANS): The Maharashtra government of Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party has hailed Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's Union Budget 2023-2024 even as the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance of Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena (UBT) howled at the proposals, here on Wednesday.
Welcoming the Budget as 'visionary and all-inclusive' for various sections of the society, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said that the budget will give a boost to Maharashtra's ambition to become a US Dollar One Trillion economy
"Many proposals are in line with the plans, projects and concepts that we are already implementing in Maharashtra. The India@100 strategy has considered four areas as central. These include women empowerment, PM development i.e. honouring our traditional artisans, tourism and green development, and this state is working in this direction," said Shinde.
He dwelt upon the substantial provisions for sectors like infrastructure, agriculture, employment and environment, the relief to the middle-class, youth empowerment, and the benefits to various projects in the state.
Shinde said that small scale industries in the state are ranked among the most efficient in the country and said that the proposed amendments in the Credit Guarantee Scheme for MSMEs will make this sector more productive.
He touched on the reliefs and benefits to the agriculture and cooperative sectors, particularly the sugar factories, the storage of agricultural produce which will help the farmers and help different societies, fisheries and dairy development organisations.
Shinde said the plans to set up 157 nursing colleges will benefit the state as Maharashtra is also establishing medical colleges in various districts, as also the Rs.6,000-crore for tourism and fisher-folk as the state has a 720-km-long coastline for developing tourism in a big way.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)'s Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar attacked the budget as "bogus" with an eye on the elections to nine states and the Lok Sabha in the next one year.
"There is no consideration for social security for the middle-classes and the Budget destroys the concept of a 'welfare state'. How can this be a golden age when the country's GDP is 3 per cent during the period 2018-2022? In comparison, the GDP averaged 6.8 per cent during the UPA Government from 2004-2014. Hence, this is nothing but an electoral 'jumla', and keeps repeating the same old announcement that India will become a US Dollar Five Trillion economy," said Pawar.
Flaying the Budget, state Congress President Nana Patole said the modus operandi of the government is to make announcements, but not actually implement them, and today's Budget is part of that exercise.
"Barring catchy slogans, rhetoric, numbers game and painting a rosy picture, there is nothing concrete. Sitharaman did not utter a word on the burning issues of tackling inflation, unemployment, spiralling fuel prices, MNREGA, the MSP and the farmers who comprise the backbone of the economy... all they got is words like chemical-free natural farming, kisan drone, digital and high-tech services," Patole said.
NCP Chief Spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said the common man is still puzzled about what he has actually got or has to remain content with only notional benefits, particularly since tax slab of Rs 7 lakh will help less than 0.3 per cent of the total population, leaving a vast majority in the lurch.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised 2 crore jobs every year, but though this is the last budget, the BJP government has failed totally on this count. If the global recession impacts India in the coming months, it will be a matter of huge concern and the government will have to rethink its strategy," said Tapase.
Congress' ex-CM Ashok Chavan slammed the Budget for not taking substantial steps to check the runaway inflation that is burdening the middle-class, and hence it remains a dream of big promises.
"Earlier, income up to Rs 5 lakh was exempt from tax, which has now been increased to Rs 7 lakh. But in view of the massive inflation, the benefits will disappear and not help the people. Even the increasing dollar now at Rs 82 against the rupee will hit imports and against add to the misery of the people. Plus, no reliefs by way of spiralling fuel prices," said Chavan.
Pawar raised the question of Maharashtra's arrears of GST pending with the Centre, despite claims of huge infrastructure funds, there is no provision for the Nashik-Pune High Speed Rail and other major railway projects, the Metros, etc, and like the 'Make In India' and 'Atmanirbhar Bharat', even the empty slogans of this year's Budget will disappear into thin air.
Patole questioned why the government did not announce a reduction in fuel prices which would partly offset the losses in savings of the poor and middle-classes instead of deceiving the people with high-interest schemes and discounts, as also the agriculture sector where a series of cuts have been proposed.
Chavan pointed out that considering various economic indicators the fiscal deficit figure of 5.9 per cent for the next year seems unrealistic, export growth has been negative for the past 99 months, welfare schemes have been starved of funds, capital expenditure has been hiked from Rs 4.39 lakh-crore to Rs 10 lakh-crore now, but there's no employment generation.
"Every year, the BJP make big numbers announcements which are not implemented. Doubling of farmers' income has not happened, every citizen to get a home by 2022 has also failed... the government is worried that this will affet its performance in the next Lok Sabha," said Chavan.
Despite Maharashtra paying the highest contribution to the Centre by way of taxes, Patole rued that the state has not got anything concrete, and all sections like farmers, workers, youth, women, minorities, Dalits, tribals and the middle-class have been left bitterly disappointed by Sitharaman.