The Uttarakhand Chief Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ presented a Rs 15451.95 crores budget on Wednesday with no new taxes, reduction of VAT on cottage industries items and kerosene, sops to the business community, introduction of tax reforms and innovative projects to please most sections of society.

Tension that gripped the Vidhan Sabha seconds before Mr. Nishank presented the budget as the Congress members led by leader of the Opposition Harak Singh Rawat raised slogans reiterating their demand for a CBI probe into allotment of some small hydro power projects to a cartel gave way to much excitement and thumping of desks as some Congress members congratulated Mr. Nishank for taking up the ‘job’ of the brand ambassador of trendy khadi clothes.

The Chief Minister donning a sparkling white Lucknawi Sherwani began his budget thanking the Opposition for the compliments.

The budget aims at giving relief to the economically weaker sections by pulling down VAT from 12.5 per cent to four per cent on kerosene. It proposes to abolish VAT on matches, crackers, candles, gum, fiber, handmade paper etc so that the profits get passed on to the poor cottage industry entrepreneurs.

VAT has also been reduced from 12.5 per cent to four per cent on cotton and textile waste generally used to make pillows and mattresses. Entertainment tax on domestic cable TV has been halved to Rs 20 per month.

Arrangements for schools and residential schools will be made for children of rag pickers, homeless and poor families with an annual income of less than Rs 32,000 and who are not covered under the BPL scheme will be benefitted under the Atal Awas Yojna, Mr Nishank said.

The medical college in Haldwani where 100 students are imparted educated almost free of cost will now on be run as a Government institution. Nursing Colleges will be established in Dehra Dun and more are planned in other districts. This Mr Nishank said will pave way for youngsters to take up the noble cause of nursing within and outside the State.

A Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan will be started for universalisation of secondary education by providing schools within five kilometers of the student’s residence.

The budget stresses on identifying and developing tourism circuits where locals will be the beneficiaries. This and other self employment schemes are aimed at checking the exodus of youth to the plains in search of jobs, Mr Nishank said.

Rs 16.5 crores have been pegged for scholarships to students of minority community and a Patrakar Puram will be established to provide residences or residential land to journalists, Mr Nishank said.

He hoped all would cooperate with the Government trying to attract major investments from industrial giants like Tatas. ‘ Let’s put whispering campaigns into hibernation and talk only of development for the sake of the State and coming generations’, Mr Nishank added.

Mr Harak Singh Rawat and several others of the Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party described the budget as eyewash. The budget is silent on many important issues like providing real-time employment generation in the hills, Mr Rawat said.