A Welfarist Outlook | Maharashtra – States News

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray looked visibly pleased as Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Ajit Pawar presented the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government’s first budget on March 6. Four sectors that Thackeray has long supported — agriculture, urban development, transport and tourism — have all received significant consideration.

The state budget estimates total expenditure at Rs 1.15 lakh crore, of which close to 40 per cent — about Rs 42,588 crore — will be spent on social and community services. Another Rs 16,333 crore has been allocated to agriculture and allied services, while the transport department, overseen by the Shiv Sena’s Anil Parab, has got Rs 16,846 crore. This is almost Rs 800 crore more than the crucial water resources department, headed by the Nationalist Congress Party’s Jayant Patil. The government has also announced a 1 per cent stamp duty concession for two years in urban pockets, including the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Nagpur. This, it is hoped, will go some way in reviving sales in the real estate sector, which is overseen by the Sena’s Eknath Shinde.

Thackeray’s focus on social welfare is evident in two schemes — loan waiver to farmers (which gets Rs 22,000 crore; Rs 15,000 crore in 2019-20 and Rs 7,000 crore in 2020-21) and the Shiv Bhojan meal at Rs 10. The latter scheme, which has been allocated Rs 150 crore, has been an instant hit since its launch on January 26. The government has now doubled the daily number of plates served to 36,000 from 18,000 across 148 centres in the state and says it plans to increase that number to 100,000 per day. “The response to this scheme has been overwhelming,” says food and civil supplies minister Chhagan Bhujbal.

The opposition has derided the “freebie” culture inherent in power minister Nitin Raut’s plan to provide free electricity up to 100 units to domestic consumers. But he is determined to continue with the AAP government-inspired plan. A committee of three secretaries has been set up to chalk out a proposal.

In keeping with the Sena’s core bel­iefs, learning Marathi is now compulsory in all boards till Standard 10. “Syllabus evaluations will be our priority in the future,” says school education minister Varsha Gaikwad, from the Congress.

The environment has always been a big priority of the Thackerays, and the chief minister’s son and minister for environment and tourism, Aaditya Thackeray, has big plans. This includes a dedicated ‘Green Fund’, and promoting free ‘forest walks’ in areas other than wildlife reserves. “I am in talks with the forest department to make it a reality,” says Aaditya. His department will also get Rs 1,000 crore for a world-class aquarium to be constructed in Worli, his constituency. Mumbai also gets an annual Rs 100 crore for the development of tourism infrastructure.

Chief Minister Thackeray has reiterated that his government’s commitment is to make people’s lives comfortable. However, Devendra Fadnavis, leader of the opposition, says Thackeray is leading a “stay government” — a dig at Uddhav’s decision to put on hold some projects initiated in Fadnavis’s time.

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