Ashok Gehlot's Budget speech lays emphasis on social welfare measures

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's Budget speech in the Rajasthan Assembly here on Wednesday laid emphasis on “positive results” of the State Government's work during the previous year for development of various sectors, and made a number of announcements for the welfare of different sections of society.

In a significant declaration, Mr. Gehlot said a State-level Advisory Council would be constituted shortly in Rajasthan on the pattern of the National Advisory Council appointed by the United Progressive Alliance at the Centre. The new body will enable non-government organisations to provide their perspective and influence policy formulation.

Beginning with the energy and water resources sectors, Mr. Gehlot — who also holds the Finance portfolio — listed a number of works taken up by each department which, he said, had benefited the people at large, and affirmed that the 2011-12 Annual Plan of the proposed size of Rs.28,461 crore would “herald [a] new era of prosperity and bring the marginalised groups to the mainstream.”

Mr. Gehlot pointed out that the Budget had put the allocations for the five departments, transferred recently to the panchayat bodies under the head of Panchayati Raj institutions, for both Plan and non-Plan provisions. “In addition to this explicit and decisive transfer of powers and allocations, untied funds will be provided to panchayats for meeting their local needs.”

For Dalits and tribals, the apportioning of the Budget — which earlier used to be on a “notional basis” — has been converted into an “actual flow” up to 16.66 per cent benefiting the Scheduled Castes and 13.02 per cent benefiting the Scheduled Tribes.

“The [new] arrangement will ensure that the funds apportioned for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes are actually spent in the accurate ratio for them,” he said.

He announced that operation and maintenance circles of the public sector power distribution companies would be reconstituted and 8,500 new posts created in them. With a proposed Plan expenditure of Rs.12,067 crore, the power generation capacity in Rajasthan is likely to increase by 1,860 MW in the public and 810 MW in the private sector.

Irrigation and drinking water sector would continue to get high attention in view of the State's geography. Mr. Gehlot said a State Water Management and Regulatory Authority would be appointed and a law on groundwater management enacted this year. As many as six major drinking water projects would be completed in 2011-12.

He announced the appointment of a State Medical Services Corporation which would introduce a centralised system for purchasing generic medicines, surgical apparatus and diagnostic equipment for government hospitals. He expressed concern over high infant and maternal mortality ratios as well as on reports of female foeticide and promised action on these fronts.

A State-level nodal agency will also be appointed for strengthening women's self-help groups and promoting micro-finance activities. For the forest and environment sector, Mr. Gehlot said a new forestry and bio-diversity project would be launched this year to promote soil and water conservation and augment livelihood opportunities for villagers.

The Chief Minister's Rural Below Poverty Line Housing Scheme announced in the Budget promised construction of 2.80 lakh dwelling units at a cost of Rs.1,400 crore. Mr. Gehlot said about 10 lakh rural BPL families would be provided houses during the next three years, in addition to the benefit under the Indira Awas Yojana.

Mr. Gehlot said the government guarantee for loans, disbursed by the Minorities Finance and Development Corporation, would be increased from the current Rs.15 crore to Rs.50 crore, and a new State merit-cum-means scholarship scheme would be launched for students belonging to minority communities. A new building for the Madrasa Board would also be constructed in Jaipur.

While a target for disbursement of crop loans worth Rs.6,000 crore has been set for the State this year, the benefits of the Union Government's national health insurance scheme would be extended to the unorganised labourers, including those engaged under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

The Chief Minister affirmed that the State's plans and actions in the fields of education, cooperative activities, science and technology, industries, urban development and art and culture were aimed at benefiting the common people and bringing about speedy development.