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Optimistic Outlook

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Uttarakhand Finance Minister Premchand Agarwal presented the Annual Budget at the Gairsain Session of the Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday, which amounts to Rs 77,407 crores. It is approximately 18 percent higher than the previous year’s budget and, even adjusting for inflation, represents a considerable hike. It remains to be seen, however, whether utilisation of the allocated funds will be done to the maximum, as performance in the past has been quite indifferent. This naturally implies that implementation of government policies and programmes is barely above average, which the present government will need to focus on if the objectives are to be achieved and people’s quality of life improved.

The goals declared by Minister Agarwal were lofty and presented in grandiose terms. Describing the budget as the first in the Amritkaal, he emphasised that the focus was on realising Prime Minister Modi’s dreams for India by making the state first in its category by 2025.

The priorities are right as emphasis has been given on boosting Tourism as a major revenue earner by enhancing road and rail connectivity, as also improving internet services statewide. Investment is to be further encouraged in various sectors, while maintaining a balance between ecology and the economy. In the light of past experiences, including the most recent disaster in Joshimath, the effort will need to be on sustainability and there is a question mark on whether the government has the administrative capability and vision to regulate growth.

This goes along with the resolve to contain, if not end, corruption as the government is already facing heat on the examination paper leak scams. Allocations for boosting the education and health sectors, as also enhancing employability of youth are praiseworthy if they find the necessary traction and are designed keeping in mind the actual requirements on the ground.

Considering the present day challenges, many of which are due to the hidden impact of the Covid pandemic, steps like hiking remuneration of Angandwadi workers, who serve the populace at the ground level, as also increased allowances and assistance for OBC, SC students, cycles for girls, development of cluster schools, enhanced scholarships for various categories, etc., will be much appreciated. The compensation amount for those affected by the Joshimath landslide has also been announced and hopefully will provide relief in an effective manner. Promotion of self-employment in the agriculture, horticulture and associated sectors is a must, as entrepreneurship remains the best way forward. The needs of ex-servicemen have also been addressed in several ways. The attempt is at a balanced and forward looking budget and implementation will remain the challenge as always.