Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal on Saturday presented budget proposals for 2018-19, pegged at ₹1,29,698 crore, emphasising that the State government was adopting a prudent fiscal road map with its focus on mobilising additional resources to put the economy back on track.Presenting his second budget, Mr. Badal proposed to raise ₹1,500 crore through additional resource mobilisation measures. “The government has decided to bring in a legislation for imposing a nominal development tax of ₹200 per month only on the income tax payees who are engaged in professions, trades, callings and employments,” he said, adding that this move would help in getting loans at cheaper interest rates from organisations such as Asian Development Bank.He added that many States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have been collecting such tax for development for a long time.”The State also intends to bring a new social security legislation to create a dedicated fund to meet its commitment towards the weaker sections of society,” he said.Mr. Badal pointed out that in the last one year the State has reduce the number of days for which the treasury remained in overdraft from 179 in 2016-17 to 98 days in 2017-18, thereby reducing the interest liability on this count on the State by about ₹5 crore. “The State had remained in double overdraft for 29 days in 2016-17. We hope to close 2017-18 without going into double overdraft even for a single day,” he added.While the total budget size was kept at ₹1,29,698 crore, the effective size is ₹1,02,198 crore, as the above figure contains a provision of ₹27,500 crore towards ‘ways and means’ transactions for the current year. The total receipts are expected to be₹1,22,923 crore. The total outstanding debt of the State as of March 31, 2018, is₹1,95,978 crore, which is likely to rise and touch ₹2,11,523 crore in 2018-19.Mr. Badal has proposed to allocate a sum of ₹4,250 crore during 2018-19 for the implementation of the debt waiver scheme.The government has also decided to give free sanitary napkins to all girl students from Class VI to XII in all government schools. A sum of ₹10 crore has been earmarked for this purpose. Besides, to provide free textbooks to students from Classes I-XII in government schools, a provision of ₹49 crore has been made.Amid the budget speech, the Opposition parties — Shiromani Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party — shouted slogans, accusing the Congress government of backtracking on its promise of complete farm loan waiver, and walked out of the House.Former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal dismissed the budget terming it “directionless, meaningless and devoid of vision”.“It documents the government’s betrayal of the farmers, the Dalits and the poor, the youth, the employees and the helpless senior citizens,” he said.
Elections in West Bengal are invariably a violent affair. But in this election, the eight candidates contesting sat in a row holding the symbols allotted to them, laughing and joking with each other.This unique election, held on Wednesday in city’s Salt Lake area, was restricted to the community of sex workers who cast their votes to elect the office bearers of Durbar Mahila Samanaway Committee (DMSC), the largest sex workers’ collective in the country with 50,000 members.Smarajit Jana, an advisor of the DMSC who oversaw the elections, said the process started in June with elections to the 45 branch committees spread across West Bengal. On Wednesday, the 180 elected representatives from the 45 branch committees gathered at a community hall in Salt Lake to elect the office-bearers . There are a strict set of guidelines for holding the polls and observers were appointed to ensure that the process was free and fair. Only those who declared themselves as “sex workers” could contest and vote in the elections. “We have been not allowed to access our mobile phones. We cannot talk to any of the voters, not even wave or smile to them,” said Bishakha Laskar, contesting for the post of the president of DMSC. Ms. Laskar’s election symbol was a ladder. Other contenders for the post were allotted symbols like the telephone and sun. Three set of ballot papers were printed for the voters to decide the top three office-bearers of the DMSC.Mamata Mukherjee, an office-bearer at the Chetla branch of DMSC, said she was a first-time voter. “There is not much difference between voting in this election and in the general election. The only difference is that there is no violence or fear here,” she said. Others involved in the process said the elections had been free and fair and without any violence. Banshi Badan Chattopadhyay, a retired school teacher, functioned as one of three observers in the poll process. “We are checking for false voters and ensuring that everything goes on as per rules,” Mr. Chattopadhyay said.Explaining the need for holding such polls, Dr. Jana said that the election not only empowered the women but also helped the office-bearers relate to the problems of fellow sex workers.Shortly after the end of the polling, Bishakha Laskar was elected as the president of DMSC, Kajal Bose as secretary and Abeda Bibi as it treasurer.
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