Telangana won't cut welfare spend despite constraints, says CM

The TRS government currently spends over Rs 60,000 crore on welfare schemes, the highest in the country

Hyderabad: The Telangana government will not cut spending on welfare schemes in the upcoming annual budget, despite financial constraints on account of Coronavirus pandemic and lower share through Central devolutions.

Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao is learnt to have issued instructions to all departments to submit budgetary proposals to the finance department, keeping in mind the funds required to meet present as well as future needs on account of addition of new beneficiaries to various welfare schemes in the next year.

The TRS government currently spends over Rs 60,000 crore on welfare schemes, the highest in the country, an official claimed. It may be recalled that the Chief Minister had recently announced in a public meeting at Halia in Nagarjunasagar assembly constituency that the state government would soon issue new ration cards and new Aasara pensions. The issuance of new ration cards was stopped in 2018.

The TRS government is yet to fulfil its 2018 poll promise of extending Aasara pensions to all categories, by reducing the maximum age limit from the present 65 years to 57 years. Nearly 10 lakh applications are pending for new ration cards while eight lakh applications are pending for Aasara pensions from potential beneficiaries in the age group of 57 to 65 years.

Chief Minister Rao has decided to implement both these schemes from April 1, the start of the new fiscal 2021-22. He has accordingly asked all departments to submit budget proposals to meet enhanced expenditure on these schemes.

Rao’s pet schemes, the Rythu Bandhu and Rythu Bima, will be implemented as normal through an allocation of Rs 14,000 crore and Rs 1,200 crore respectively in the new budget.

This apart, the CM wants to allot Rs 6,000 crore for funding the Rs 1 lakh crop loan waiver scheme, which is one of the major poll promises of the TRS in 2018 polls. Last year, a partial crop loan of up to Rs 25,000 was waived off. This year loans up to Rs 50,000 will be waived off.

The finance department has stepped up budget drafting exercises based on the instructions of the Chief Minister. The budget is likely to be presented to the Legislature in the second week of March.

Finance minister T. Harish Rao held a meeting with finance officials last week to take stock of the present financial condition of the government, in the wake of revenues taking a severe nosedive. Mr Harish Rao reviewed the statements of revenue earnings from April 2020 to January 2021.

It was found that there is a huge shortfall of revenue during this period. Last year’s budget estimated the income of the state government at Rs 1.82 lakh crore, which includes revenue earnings and loans. But the government’s income stands at only Rs 1.16 lakh crore as on January 31, 2021, which includes Rs 39,662 crore of loans.

The government hopes to earn about Rs 20,000 crore in the remaining one-and-a-half month period till March 31. Even then, there would be a deficit of nearly Rs 50,000 crore.

Despite this, Chandrashekar Rao is against imposing cuts on welfare schemes spending in the new budget and has asked officials to explore other options to bridge the revenue gap.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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