The budget for 2020-21 presented in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Friday by Finance Minister O Pannerselvam lays special focus on agriculture though no specific mention has been about the proposal to declare the Cauvery delta region as a protected agricultural region to bar any further hydrocarbon project.
It is Pannerselvam’s tenth budget and the last for the Edappadi Palanisamy Government before the next Assembly elections . The budget shows a revenue deficit of Rs 21,000 crore thanks to fall in GST and tax revenues. Total estimated revenue is pegged at Rs 2.19 lakh crore while expenditure will be Rs 2.4 lakh crore, leaving an uncovered revenue deficit of Rs 21,671 crore.
The Minister said the GST and VATs revenue are expected to go down because of the slowdown in the national economy. He said there would be a fall of Rs 7,000 crore in tax revenue this financial year. The State’s debt is estimated at around Rs 4.56 lakh core, which means a burden of Rs 57,000 per head on all the State citizens.
The State's growth is pegged at 7.2 per cent while tax revenue is expected to grow at 10.5 per cent. The total allocations for agriculture includes Rs 11,000 crore for farm loans given by cooperative banks, Rs 6,991 crore for irrigation, Rs 610 crore for repair of dams, Rs 1,400 crore for rural roads and Rs 6,500 crore for food subsidy. Minimum procurement prices of various farm produces are proposed to be increased.
The Minister said relief would be given to farmers who repay their debts by due dates. He said food processing zones would be set up in Thiruvannamalai, Salem, Cuddalore and Villupuram districts. He said food Parks will be set up in Dharmapuri, Ariyalur, Perambalur, Karur, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram and Tenkasi districts. Integrated Farmer Sales Centres would be set up at Thiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri, Madurai and Trichy.
The Minister also announced increased allocations for urban development with special focus on desilting of three major rivers and canals in Chennai—Adyar, Cooum and Buckingham Canal.He said the Government had set apart funds as it share for the second metro rail project work in Chennai on which has already started.
The Minister also announced that his Government would implement the Modi Government’s one nation, one ration shops and revamp public distribution system for the purpose. He said 585 ration shops have been set up across Tamil Nadu. Smart Family Card Holders can buy their provisions from these shops.
As part of freebies, the Government allocated Rs 955 crore for supply of free laptops to college students, and another Rs 300 core as assistance for education of Scheduled Tribes students.
The Government allocated Rs 71 core for the Nirbhaya project for women protection. As a further precautionary measure, all government buses would be fitted with CCTV cameras, the Minister said.
Criticising the budget as lacking direction, Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin said Pannerselvam in his tenth budget could not even promise a ten per cent growth. On the other hand, the AIADMK regime in the last 10 years had increased the debt burden on the common man. When the DMK left office in 2011, the State’s debt burden was Rs 1 lakh crore. It had now risen four fold, he pointed out.
Stalin criticised the absence of any announcement in the budget about proposed protected agricultural zones. However farmers leaders like P R Pandian have welcomed the allocations for agriculture in the budget.