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Cong, CPI(M) term J&K budget ‘disappointing’

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Srinagar, Mar 18: Jammu and Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) and CPI(M) on Thursday termed the budget present by the central government in Parliament as “disappointing” and said that budget allocations are short of the people’s expectations.

The Centre on Tuesday presented a Rs 1-lakh crore Budget for Jammu and Kashmir for 2020-21, and said the “highest ever” allocations reflect its commitment to make the Union Territory “a model of development”.

The government also presented a separate expenditure plan of Rs 55,317.81 crore for the last five months of the current fiscal.

The Budget for 2019-20 and 2020-21, laid by Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur in both Houses of Parliament, estimates capital expenditure at Rs 23,910.95 crore and revenue expenditure Rs 31,406.86 crore.

“J&K budget presented by the Centre is disappointing. The budget allocations are short of the people’s expectations and needs on various fronts in view of numerous challenges and dreams post downgrading of state into a UT”,  senior Congress leader and former minister Mula Ram said in Jammu.

Former minister and vice-president of J&K Congress, Raman Bhalla expressed dismay over the lack of any major initiatives to boost the economically distressed region, due to the division and downgrading of the historic state and resultant atmosphere of uncertainty disturbing the trade, transport, business, tourism activities.

He said that due to lack of employment during past few years, there is large-scale unemployment in the government and private sectors. The youth are getting frustrated with meager job opportunities while the self employed and the causal, need based and daily wagers are on roads for justice, he added.

“Several decisions of the UT administration has rendered the self-employed also jobless, and the business atmosphere is vitiated,” Bhalla said. “All sorts of business trade and tourism activity is at lowest levels while the inflation is at its peak,” he added.

He said that in view of this several initiatives were required to boost the sagging economy and the GOI should have liberally helped the de-stabilized region, which are short of expectations of different sections.

While terming the J&K budget presented in Parliament as a routine exercise, CPI(M) on Thursday said it was “disappointing” for the people of the region as there was no concrete plan in it to revive the shattered economy of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Unfortunately, it is the most disappointing budget for the people of J&K. All businesses in J&K have been shattered post the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019 and there is no mention of reviving them and to assist those who suffered huge losses”, CPI(M) said in a statement emailed to media houses in Kashmir.

It said after the August 2019 clampdown, economy of J&K has virtually collapsed as tourism, trade and other vital sectors were badly hit. Whole businesses have been shattered in Kashmir since 2019. Those who were already earning their livelihood were deprived of the same, it said.

“The unemployment level in J&K has reached its crescendo, but there is no mention of it in the Budget. The non-payment of wages to daily-wagers, casual workers, NREGA workers, contractuals, Anganwadi workers/helpers, ASHAs, CPWs, Mid-Day Meal workers and others for the last more than a year is a huge concern which the government has failed to address. The livelihood issues of people have been totally ignored in the Budget,” the statement said.

It said “core sectors of the economy — agriculture and horticulture — have totally been neglected by the government, despite J&K being an agricultural state and major chunk of population dependent on this sector.  Issue of fair price for farmers produce by ensuring a minimum support price for all crops has been their long pending demand. But there is no mention of it in the Budget.”

Thousands of artisans in the Valley are without work since August 2019, it said. “After agriculture, handicrafts form an important sector of the economy of Kashmir. According to figures by Kashmir’s handicrafts department, some four lakh artisans are associated with the sector, of which around two lakh are registered with the department. But the Budget has failed them also.”

On ground, even those projects are pending which had started before the BJP government came to power in Center in 2014, it said.

“Those projects which were started in UPA-II are still incomplete. Business activities and developmental works, including repair of roads, and livelihood issues of people have come to a halt in Kashmir.

“Despite a power crisis in winter in Kashmir and in Jammu in the summer, no there is no concrete plan in the Budget to address this issue. Similarly, a huge number of people in J&K continue to suffer due to shortage of safe drinking water as hundreds of water supply schemes are hanging in balance due to acute scarcity of funds. There is no mention of it in the Budget,” the statement pointed out.

It also said the frequent closure of the national highway has given a blow to the already fragile economy of Kashmir.

“How many decades will it take further to connect Kashmir with rest of the country by a dependable road or rail link? The highway and railway line project should have been given a priority since the BJP-led government came to power in 2014. But the reality is that condition of the national highway has gone from bad to worse in the last few years.

“What is clear from this budget is that this government pays only lip service to the plight of the poor and workers,” the CPI(M) said.

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