Special Correspondent

Budget focuses on food security and empowerment of farmers, women

RAIPUR: Proposing no fresh taxes and keeping the fiscal deficit well within the prescribed limits, the Rs.15,510-crore Budget estimates for Chhattisgarh for the year 2007-08 lay special emphasis on the social sector.

Presenting the Budget estimates in the Assembly on Tuesday, Chief Minister Raman Singh said emphasis would be on food security, empowerment of farmers, women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and provision of safe drinking water. An outcome Budget has also been introduced for the first time to ensure greater accountability of the implementing agencies in various developmental programmes.

With an estimated growth of 15 per cent in tax revenue and 23 per cent in non-tax revenue, this is the second consecutive year that there is a revenue surplus of Rs.1,801 crore. The Budget estimate is 14 per cent higher than the current year's revised estimates with social sector spending taking a large share of 37 per cent of the total outlay. The Plan outlay of Rs.7,841 crore is 51 per cent of total budgetary outlay and the outlay for capital expenditure is Rs.3,559 crore -- 40 per cent higher than the current year. Non-Plan expenditure has been pegged at 49 per cent of the total expenditure that is 2 per cent lower than the current year.

The budget allocates 37 per cent of the total expenditure for tribal sub-plan and 12 per cent for the Scheduled Castes sub-plan.

Dr. Singh announced that the State had taken the lead in reducing the interest rate on short-term agriculture credit from 7 per cent to 6 per cent and for this purpose there is a provision of Rs.15 crore towards "interest subsidy'' to the cooperative banks. To encourage crop diversification, a "production subsidy'' of Rs.500 per quintal has been proposed for farmers producing certified seeds in pulses and oils.

There is a special package of food security to cover the balance 4 lakh below-poverty-line Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes families under the Antodaya Anna Yojana from State's own budget. Similarly, another 9 lakh additional families belonging to economically weaker sections will benefit from the newly announced "Chief Minister's food assistance'' scheme under which food grains at BPL rate will be made available and an amount of Rs.114 crore has been earmarked for the purpose. There is a record increase of 40 per cent in the budgetary outlay for drinking water and the Government will now provide 70 per cent grant instead of the earlier provision of 30 per cent to the urban local bodies. There is also a major emphasis on girl child education and improving education standards among the SC/ST children. To achieve this objective, the Chief Minister announced a new scheme of special cash incentive to the best performing panchayats for increasing enrolment and reducing the drop-out rate among girls.

Renewing the emphasis on strengthening health services delivery systems, Dr. Singh announced a 25 per cent increase in the outlay.

To strengthen development administration in naxalite-affected areas, two of the worst affected sub-divisions of Narayanpur and Bijapur are to be upgraded to revenue districts and office of Regional Development Commissioners will be put in place at Ambikapur and Jagdalpur.

All blocks will now be upgraded to tehsils. As many as 4,000 new recruitments will be made in the police force and a special relief package has been announced for the tribals affected by naxalite violence who are at present living in camps.