Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Saturday presented in the state Assembly a tax-free budget for 2021-22 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, with expenditure of Rs 50,192 crore and fiscal deficit of Rs 7,789 crore.

The budget is silent on giving any relief to people over price rise, but propose to fully restore the salaries of ministers and MLAs, which were cut by 30 per cent in view of the Covid pandemic.

The focus of the HP budget 2021-22 is on women welfare and empowerment, social security, uplift of weaker sections and improvement in health infrastructure. There is a marginal increase in the budget size this year from 2020-21, which was Rs 49,131 crore. Thakur did not propose any new tax in his fourth Budget.

“The impact of Covid-19 is visible on the economy and it was a difficult time for administration and economy. Still we have tried to give a development oriented budget. We have introduced 12 new schemes in different sectors. Our effort is to uplift weaker sections. We will also fill 30,000 functional posts in the government sector,” Chief Minister Thakur told media persons after delivering a three-hour-long budget speech in the HP Assembly.

He said his government has increased the budget of the health sector by 11 per cent over last year, with the pandemic throwing up several needs in the field in terms of infrastructure and staffing.

He said out of every 100 rupees to be spent by the government in 2021-22, Rs 25.31 will be spent on salaries, Rs 14.11 on pension, Rs 10 on interest payments, Rs 6.64 on loan repayment and Rs 43.94 on development works and other activities. “The impact of Covid-19 cannot be ruled out during 2020-21. This might come in the way of achieving targets fixed under Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act,” Thakur said, claiming that the state was however on the recovery in “V shape”. The Chief Minister said that the total debt burden on the state is Rs 60,500.

Earlier presenting the budget in the House, he announced a social security pension of Rs 1000 per month to the elderly women in the age group of 65- 69 years under Swaran Jayanti Sambal Yojana. Earlier this provision was meant for above 70 years old men and women.

He introduced a new scheme ‘Shagun’ involving a grant of Rs 31,000 at the time of marriage for the daughters of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Classes from Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. He said two girls will now be given Post Birth grant of Rs 21,000 as fixed deposit.

The chief minister announced 25 per cent reservation for women for recruitment as constables and sub-inspectors in police in a phased manner. He said 40,000 new beneficiaries will be brought under social security pension schemes.

The CM said all persons above the age of 70 years and orphans living in Bal Ashrams will be covered free of cost under HIMCARE scheme of government. He said milk procurement prices will be increased by Rs 2 per litre. He announced an increase in the daily wages from Rs 275 to Rs 300. The CM proposed to increase the honorarium of Anganwari workers by Rs 500 per month, of mini Anganwari workers by Rs 300 per month and of ASHA workers by Rs 750 per month.

He said a research fund of Rs 5 crore would be set up for research in horticulture and agriculture in the two state universities.

He said the new Municipal Corporations in Solan, Palampur and Mandi will be given a special grant of Rs one crore each and each of the newly constituted Nagar Panchayats will be given a special grant of Rs 20 lakh.

He announced an increase in the MLA Development Fund from Rs 1.75 crore to Rs 1.80 crore. “I believe that necessary resources will be mobilized through effective tax administration, funding from international funding agencies, continued support of the Government of India and prudence in fiscal management,” he said.