Shimla, March 24 (IANS) Close to half of the annual budget of debt-ridden Himachal Pradesh is being spent on its 'babus' - both serving and retired.
According to budget estimates for 2012-13, out of the total expenditure of Rs.20,243.92 crore, spending on salaries and pensions will be Rs.9,069.81 crore.
This means about 45 percent of the total budget is meant for just 260,000 employees and 117,000 pensioners.
Interestingly, rest of the budget of Rs.11,174.11 crore is being kept for loan repayments and developmental works.
Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, while presenting the budget in the ongoing budget session, said: "The total budget expenditure estimate for 2012-13 is Rs.20,243.92 crore out of which estimated expenditure on salaries is R.6,285.10 crore, pensions Rs.2,784.71 crore, estimated interest payments Rs.2,249.67 crore and loan repayments Rs.1,937.30 crore apart from Rs.367.17 crore on other loans and Rs.1,567.55 crore on maintenance."
He said out of every Rs.100 spent, salaries will account for Rs.31.05, pensions Rs.13.76, interest payments Rs.11.11, loan repayments Rs.9.57 and the remaining Rs.34.51 on developmental projects and other activities.
Government officials said Dhumal's budget was mainly focussed on employees to woo them ahead of the state assembly polls. They said the state's debt liability has increased to Rs.5,366 crore in the past four years.
The serving and retired employees and their families constitute a sizeable chunk of the electorate in the state with over 4.6 million voters. The polls are due in December.
During the budget speech, Dhumal said: "Our government has always been committed towards the welfare of its employees... I would like to inform the house that our government has released financial benefits of over Rs.5,400 crore in the last four years to its employees."
For daily-wagers, the budget has a proposal to enhance their minimum wages from Rs.120 to Rs.130. This would benefit daily wagers in the government besides nearly 400,000 people engaged under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).
Likewise, the per hour rate of part-time workers employed by the government will be correspondingly revised which would benefit more than 11,000 employees. Similarly, all the daily-wager and contractual employees, who have completed eight years of service as on March 31, 2012, will be regularised.
"Our employees have come up with a request for providing an education loan to enable their children to take up professional education. I announce a loan for the government employees up to Rs.75,000 at a rate of interest which will be equal to the GPF (general provident fund) interest rate," Dhumal said.
"I announce that seven percent DA (dearness allowance) shall be released to the employees and the pensioners. The annual impact of release of DA would be around Rs.340 crore."
The budget also has the provision to increase honorarium for the nagar panchayat and nagar parishad functionaries in the state.
Leader of opposition and Congress leader Vidya Stokes said the budget was unrealistic and lacked vision.
"The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government has extended largesse to business houses in eco-tourism, hydro-power, housing and mining. This severely affected the state's sources of income," Stokes told IANS.
"It's surviving mainly on central funds available under schemes like the National Rural Health Mission, MNREGA and JNNURM," she said.
Congress legislator G.S. Bali said only 25,000 people were provided jobs over the past four years. "The government has totally failed to generate new employment avenues," he said.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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