Hemant Soren budget takes Kejriwal model to Jharkhand, keeps Rahul Gandhi’s promise

Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may not be a force in Jharakhand, but his politics has impact on Hemant Soren government’s first budget. Rahul Gandhi’s Congress may be a junior partner in the coalition government in Jharkhand, but Hemant Soren kept the promise that the Congress leader made during the state election campaign last year.

In its maiden budget, Hemant Soren government proposed to offer free electricity up to 100 units for households consuming up to 300 units of power per month. This is on the line Kejriwal government’s electricity policy of zero bill up to 200 units of consumption.

The Hemant Soren government proposed to set up “Mohalla Clinics” – another pet project of Kejriwal — and offer “digital education” in government schools as it underscored the need to reform school education in Jharkhand. Another Kejriwal imprint appears in universal health insurance scheme for the residents of Jharkhand.

However, the biggest election promise that Hemant Soren government fulfilled with the first budget is the one made by Rahul Gandhi. It announced Rs 2,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme in his budget with the promise of waiving off loans up to Rs 50,000 per farmer.

The loan waiver for farmers has been a favourite scheme of Rahul Gandhi, whose party Congress is a member of three-party rulling alliance, which unseated BJP in the assembly polls held in October 2019.

Hemant Soren’s finance minister Rameshwar Oraon, who presented the budget, is also from Congress. Oraon tabled an estimated budget of Rs 86,370 crore for the year 2020-21. It included sops ranging from universal health insurance to farmer loan waivers, from stipends for the jobless to dhoti, sari and lungi to 57 lakh poor families twice a year at a cost of Rs 10 each. Now, ration cards are to be given to 10 lakh people aged above 50.

Though the BJP-led opposition boycotted the assembly proceedings to protest against the Speaker’s decision of not recognizing reinducted BJP leader Babulal Marandi as leader of the Opposition, the treasury benches remained upbeat with what Hemant Soren described as “pro-poor and inclusive” budget.

Hemant Soren said the budget aims at achieving 7.2 per cent growth rate for state GDP (Gross Domestic Product) from current 5.7 per cent, and push per capital income to Rs 65,802 from the existing Rs 62,345.
The Hemant Soren government’s budget proposed a universal health insurance capped at Rs 5 lakh. However, the employees of state and central governments will not be covered under this scheme.

The budget further proposed to provide free treatment of cancer, kidney and serious liver diseases by noted doctors to individuals in families with an annual income up to Rs 8 lakh.

The budget expanded the scholarship window by offering what was so far available to ST/SC/ OBC students from Classes I to XII to students of all categories and classes. The budget also offered an additional Rs 50,000 to each beneficiary for homes under the PM Awas Yojana.

The jobless graduate registered with the employment exchanges of the state will be given Rs 5,000 per year for two years. The relief sum will go up to Rs 7,000 for unemployed postgraduates.

Of the Rs 73,315.94 crore that comes under revenue expenditure and Rs 13,054.06 crore under capital expenditure, the Hemant Soren government has set aside Rs 37,445.06 crore as establishment cost, Rs 34,485.72 crore for implementation of state schemes, Rs 3,315.27 crore for central schemes and Rs 11,123.95 crore for expenditure on Centre-sponsored schemes.

When it comes to revenue, Rs 15,839 crore comes from grants-in-aid, Rs 11,820.34 earmarked from non-tax revenue, Rs 21,669.50 crore from the state’s taxes and Rs 25,979.91 crore from the state’s share in central taxes.

Calling the budget as Hemant Soren asserted that his government looks to ensure that “no one dies due to lack of food, water and healthcare, and children instead of graz- ing goats go to school. It is a revolutionary budget.”

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