Chennai: The Tamil Nadu state budget presented by finance minister D. Jayakumar on Thursday brought to light the state’s distressful revenue and expenditure balance.
While presenting his maiden budget, Jayakumar mentioned that expenditures of the state had gone up by Rs. 16252 cr in the fiscal year 2016-17 while tax revenue had declined by Rs. 3,000 cr. The fiscal deficit stands at an alarming 4.58% which is more than the Financial Budget Responsibility Management Act’s prescribed 3%. No tax benefits were announced by the minister.
Jayakumar allotted Rs. 1503 cr for free schemes extended to school going children, Rs. 352 cr for improving school infrastructure and also introduced post-matriculation scholarships. He announced building of modern residential school with hostel facilities for teachers in Javvadu hills for the benefit of tribal communities and up-gradation of 150 middle schools to high schools and 100 high schools to higher secondary schools.
While doctors in the state fought for exemption from NEET, the state announced the addition of 174 post graduation medical seats in the state. “The government has increased the number of seats but it has not been done proportionately. The seats should be proportionate to the number of patients, availability of beds, number of professors etc. Increasing seats without increasing any of these factors compromises with the quality of doctors,” says Arvindh Santhosh, a final student of Madras Medical College and member of Doctor’s Association for Social Equality.
The State’s concern over impending water scarcity was evident from its allocation of funds for water management. Rs 300 cr has been allotted for the Tamirabarani-Nambiyaaru river linking project. Jayakumar announced a loan of Rs 3,042 crore from World Bank for conservation of water bodies and alloted Rs 300 crore for the Kudi Maramathu project (Water resources management by people). Cost of conservation of Pallikaranai marshland is to be taken from the Green Climate Fund.
True to the state’s freebies for welfare scheme model, Jayakumar announced the continuation of former CM Jayalalitha’s flagship schemes like Amma canteen and Anna Danam scheme. Free smart canes will be provided to 10,000 blind people. Rs. 750 cr has been allotted for distribution of free laptops, while the AIDMK led state stuck to its poll promise of provision of free land pattas to 3.5 lakh families from economically weaker sections.
The budget also included a new fishing harbour in Mookaiyur in Ramanathapuram district. It increased compulsory working days under MGNREGA from 100 to 150 daysa and announced the establishment of a medical park in Kancheepruam.
Women figured in a small way in the budget with the state being the first in the country to increase maternity leaves from 180 days to 270 days. Dr. Jayakumar also announced allotment of Rs 200 crore to help 1 lakh women to purchase scooters at a subsidised rate. Coupled with this, he increased funds for the sanitary napkin provision scheme from Rs. 44.21 cr last year to Rs. 61 cr this year.
The state finance minister announced Rs 116 crore for the Refugee welfare fund (Sri Lankan refugees) and expressed the state’s intention to press the centre for granting dual citizenship to Sri Lankan refugees in India.