Kolkata: With an eye on the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, West Bengal Finance Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya on Thursday presented a Rs 3,66,116 crore state budget for 2024-25 with enhanced sums for various key sections of the people.
Understanding that the women voters have played a crucial role for Trinamool Congress’ electoral success in consecutive elections, Bhattacharya proposed a substantial increase in the entitlements under Lakshmir Bhandar, the monthly scheme for women in the state.
Under the new proposals, the monthly amount for the general category women will be doubled from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000, and the amount for the reserved categories will be increased from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,200.
“An additional annual allocation of Rs 12,000 crore has been provided for this purpose. On attaining the age of 60 years, there will be an automatic and seamless transition from Lakhshmir Bhandar to old age pension scheme and the beneficiaries will continue to receive the same amount,” Bhattacharya said.
Reading out the budget speech, Bhattacharya reminded the Assembly of the assurance from the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, about paying the beneficiaries of 100-day job scheme under MGNREGA from the state exchequer and said that the state government has earmarked an allocation of Rs 3,700 crore for 2024-25.
At the same time, she also announced the state’s own job scheme Karmasree, through which the state government will ensure at least 50 days of work to each job card holder. This scheme shall commence from May 2024, the Finance Minister said.
She also said that the state government has also announced an additional four per cent dearness allowance (DA) for the state government employees. However, the announcement has not made the agitating state government employees happy as even after the enhancement the gap in DA payment with their counterparts in the Union government remains at 32 per cent.
Economic analysts feel that although several proposals on enhanced dole amounts were announced, there was no concrete proposal for balancing the same through additional generation of tax revenues. On the contrary, pointed out economists, there had been proposals on relaxations of taxes in certain spheres like taxes of vehicles, luxury tax, stamp duty, among others.
The opening minutes of the budget speech was marked by pandemonium as the opposition BJP legislators started shouting slogans regarding the issues of different financial irregularities and fiscal mismanagement. Even the Chief Minister herself, at one point of time, was seen entering into heated exchange of words with the BJP legislators.
The discussions on the state budget will be for the next two days following which the house will be adjourned.