NEW DELHI: While the Delhi Budget 2008-09 presented by Finance Minister A.K. Walia on Monday had little new to offer by way of announcements as most of the schemes had already been launched earlier, it did lay a lot of emphasis on the social sector and welfare schemes to cover the poor and the underprivileged.
The Opposition BJP members, however, protested against the all-round increase in prices of daily necessities and repeatedly demanded to know what was being done to mitigate its impact on the people. However, the protests were within the limits of House discipline.
The atmosphere remained cheerful throughout as Congress MLAs sought to counter the protests with thumping of desks. During his nearly 80-minute speech, Dr. Walia deviated briefly to remind the Opposition that they were being watched by people on television. And while some protests were also directed at Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, she too appeared relaxed and combative as ever and even gave a “thumbs down” to the Opposition members.
Dr. Walia told the House that as part of Delhi’s Annual Plan for 2008-09 work for seven new flyovers and underpasses would be taken up and nine such projects would be completed. The Budget has also made a provision of Rs.743 crore for taking up development and sanitation works in the unauthorised colonies during 2008-09.
The Budget also seeks to promote various insurance schemes. Dr. Walia said the Government would implement the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana from April 1 providing health insurance coverage to Below Poverty Line families in the unorganised sectors. The Government has also decided to increase its contribution to Rs.100 under the Janshree Bima Yojana and henceforth the beneficiaries will be insured free of cost. The Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana launched by the Government last October 2 will also be implemented in Delhi to provide life and disability insurance coverage to the rural landless households.
Further, the scheme of education and those pertaining to the SC/ST welfare would now have an income limit of Rs.1 lakh per year to widen their base. Similarly, for the schemes of food subsidy to determine Above Poverty Line families the income limit has been enhanced to Rs.1 lakh per year.
To make Delhi “hunger-free”, Dr. Walia said, the “Aapki Rasoi” programme had been launched to provide at least one meal in the afternoon to the poor at specified night shelter locations.
The Government also proposes to increase the uniform subsidy for students from Rs. 300 to Rs. 500 per year so that they can purchase one jersey for the winter session in addition to good quality uniforms.
In the field of environment, it has been decided to phase out all 15-year-old light commercial vehicles. Owners of these vehicles will be provided subsidy equivalent to VAT on purchase of new LCVs.
Finally, for the Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi in 2010, the Budget has made an outlay of Rs.1,189 crore in 2008-09 compared with the likely expenditure of Rs.461 crore in the current financial year. This is also indicative of how work on various projects associated with the conduct of the event is now gathering momentum.