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Tripura Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Devvarma on Monday tabled a ‘tax-free’, ‘pro-people’ and ‘zero deficit’ budget with several proposals for youth, rural development, public distribution system and free smartphones for fresh graduates.

Devvarma, who holds the finance portfolio, presented a budget of Rs 17,530.46 crore and claimed that his government has succeeded in gaining a revenue growth of 14.5 per cent in the last one year due to better tax management and administrative policies.

The deputy CM also said that the government aims for a tax revenue collection of Rs 2,048.95 crore this financial year. The estimate accounts for a non-tax revenue collection of Rs 285.21 crore and Rs 12,764.30 crore fund receipt from the state, including a share of central taxes and deficit grants. This is slightly higher than the non-tax revenue provisions of Rs 12,506.18 crores in the revised estimates of the current financial year.

However, this budget also aims to bootstrap the gross borrowing of nearly Rs 2,430 crore.

Meanwhile, the total expenditure for 2019-20 was projected at Rs 17,530.46 crore in the budget estimate, including a revenue expenditure of Rs 14,061.32 crore and a capital expenditure of Rs 3,469.14 crore.

The budget also carried provisions to increase the social security pension from Rs 700 to Rs 1,000 per month during the first phase for selected categories of beneficiaries.

Prior to winning the February 18 assembly elections last year, the BJP in Tripura had promised to raise all social security pensions from Rs 700 to Rs 2,000 per month. The move to increase the amount to Rs 1,000 comes as the first step in the direction of fulfilling the poll promise, albeit half of it.

The budget proposal also had provisions to provide free smartphones to immediate graduates. Providing free smartphones to all youths was also among a few popular poll promises made by the BJP here. However, to begin with, only fresh graduates would get their smartphones in the first phase.

In its budget, the government has also proposed to develop 10 under-developed rural development blocks in Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTADC) into ‘Model Blocks’. The model blocks would have a series of better services and amenities.

The budget also has provisions to supply sugar at subsidised rates through fair price shops to all households in the this financial year and launching of additional Krishak Bandhu Centre (KBC) to reach technical knowledge about agriculture to the farmers’ doorstep. Thirteen KBCs are already operational in the state.

The state government also hopes to continue paddy procurement through Food Corporation of India (FCI) by bearing the additional rice milling bills.

A total of 1,867 check dams would be erected with funding from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JIA) and the Indo-German Development Cooperation (IGDC) projects. These dams would help in augmenting scopes for fish cultivation, drinking water supply, irrigation etc.

The deputy CM said that under the Mini Dairy Scheme of NABARD loan, 10,000 cows (2 cows per family) to women members of 5,000 families will be provided to give a major boost to milk production in the state for which the government shall provide 100% interest subvention.

The finance minister also said that his government intends to set up 18 additional Ekalavya Model Residential Schools with 480 seat capacity in each of them.

Terming it as “historic” and “pro-people”, BJP spokesperson Dr Ashok Sinha said the new budget proposal included provisions for development of people from all walks of life. It is a complete and welfare budget, he said.

However, Tripura Pradesh Congress vice president Tapas Dey hit out at the government over provisions of free smartphones while ignoring the welfare of farmer, students and youths. This budget is a jumla, he said.

Deputy Opposition Leader and senior CPI (M) leader Badal Choudhury termed the budget as “hopeless” and “anti-people”. He said that the budget estimates didn’t account for aspirations of the people and had no new direction. Choudhury also claimed that the budget has reduced the outlay for wage-based skilled labour and quality education.