Jammu, Jan 17: Minister for Finance, Dr Haseeb Drabu Wednesday said the wide-ranging fiscal and welfare measures announced in the State budget are aimed at setting JK’s sluggish economy on the path of revival and recovery.
“It took this Government three years to restore the rotten fiscal system, put in place a sustainable Public Expenditure Policy and set the State’s economy on the path of steady recovery and revival,” Dr Drabu said while winding up the discussion of the Budget proposals in the Legislative Council today.
Enumerating, the Finance Minister said, that J&K has landed up in a serious fiscal crisis because of various long and short term reasons including protracted political turmoil, 2014 floods, 2016 disturbances, demonetization and GST. “When I talk of fiscal crisis, let me make it clear, I am not talking about the Government finances, but the entire economic system involving every section of the society,” he said and added that the only way to set the State’s economy on the recovery and revival path is to enhance autonomous public expenditure, which is the basic theme of this Budget.
He said the fundamental intent of making it a stakeholders’ Budget is to generate income across various levels of people, pump public money into the system and push economic revival through a sustained effort. “That is why we have announced various measures in this budget so that money keeps continuously flowing and circulating in the system to keep the economy enduring,” Dr Drabu said and added that these measures would facilitate greater flow of cash in the system which would go a long way in the revival the sluggish economy.
Defending his decision of extending various financial benefits to the employees, he said there are 4.5 lakh employees and every employee has a family of at least five persons. “That means that a population of around 25 lakh souls is directly linked to the government. If they spend, the economy improves, if they save money, it also helps,” he said and added that the same dictum is the main reason for amnesties that are a part of the budget. “When we announce some amnesty, we actually write off somebody’s liability and when there is no liability, it automatically becomes income,” he explained.
He said the focus of the renewed fiscal policy is to enlarge constituency of peace, restore dignity of the state and its people and make it relevant for the times that we live in and essentially for the stakeholders. “This is perhaps the first budget that is not about the government departments but the stakeholders encompassing every section of the society including poorest of the poor, marginalized, employees, traders, industrialists, agriculturists, women, girls, students, youth and destitute,” Dr Drabu said and added that he wanted to make this budget relevant for the times and the people of the State and its economy. “And I am contended that I have achieved the objective to a significant extent,” he said and added that with the budgetary edifice in place, now is the time to consolidate the fiscal and budgetary reforms at the departmental level for sustained and self-generating efficiency gains.
Dr Drabu reiterated that the system building started in 2015 has a positive impact, Dr Drabu said the biggest proof is that perhaps for the first time in the budgetary history of J&K, the revised estimates for the current year are much better than the budget estimates that he had presented last year.
Enumerating he said, three numbers stand out: tax revenues were estimated to be Rs 9931 crore. These have been exceeded and in the process, we have crossed the Rs 10000 crore mark of own tax collection. “Second, I had estimated an unfunded resource gap of over Rs 3000 crores. As the year comes to an end, I have a surplus of more than Rs 1300 crore. Third, the fiscal deficit which is regarded to be the single most important indicator of fiscal performance was estimated at around 9.5 percent but has actually turned out to be around 5.7 percent; an improvement of nearly 400 basis points. This is unprecedented,” he said and added that because of a well-run financial setup, the Govt is now able to take decisions that change lives of the people for good, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized.
The Finance Minister observed that the state imports more from other states than it exports and hence more money goes out of the system. He said to attract more investment in the state, the government need to handhold and incentivise the industry to attract more investments that will help to increase the flow of money in the system. Dr Drabu informed that in 2012-13, out of one rupee, 36 paisa were going out of the state towards imports while it has been gradually brought down up to 30 paisa this year that has helped to retain more money in the state. He said the government has also been able to reduce the GPF liability from Rs 20000 crore to Rs 8000 crore besides reducing the liabilities of power and other concerned agencies.
He said the Government is at the same time trying to bring up a new rural fiscal architecture by linking Panchayats with Rural and Cooperative Banks. “We want to effectively revive the institutions of rural local governance in the State with a sustainable supportive fiscal system side by side,” he said and added that the capital infusion of Rs 250 crore to three Cooperative Banks and the decision to connect these banks with the Panchayats will provide regular fund flow to these banks. He said a parallel financial structure has been initiated for empowering the Panchayats and further boosting the rural economy.
Speaking on the recent initiative taken by the government for construction workers, the Minister said that in the last three years, the funds have been increased for their welfare including insurance cover, overdraft facility and other measures for the construction workers.
Elaborating on the provisions kept in the Budget for Agriculture, sector, Dr Drabu said that the focus of the government is to promote commercial agriculture to transform the rural economy for which the spending is more than 10 times. He further said that Horticulture is a major part of agriculture sector and thrust is on professionalizing these sectors to generate more employment.
The Finance Minister said that the government has recently increased the minimum wages of un-skilled, skilled and highly skilled workers and this move will in turn raise the market wages prevailing in the state thereby increasing the incomes of the poorest. He further said the proposed uniform Labour Code will be a landmark initiative for the welfare of the labourers.
Defending the decision of keeping the Toll Tax regime intact in the GST era, Dr Drabu said it is vital to the policy making in the state. “It is not a matter of revenue as that is too small an amount,” he said. “It is vital to the requirements of the state to know what and how much comes and goes out of the State. It is the only gateway we have and the information is required for the protection of the local industry. Trade balance is something that we must always know and the gap in it is surging.”
Dr Drabu said the toll tax has been there since 1938. Between 2003 and 2010, it increased by half and now it saw a marginal shift and it has suddenly become an issue. “Toll is more important for protection of local industry,” he said.
Responding to the concerns of the Legislators regarding J&K Bank, Dr Drabu assured the House that although he favours complete autonomy in the functioning of the Bank, but as a regulator he will take the requisite measures to address the issues concerning the Bank. “We would look into the issues, if any, in the JK Bank and ensure that its functioning is made more transparent. However, it should not be a reason for getting the issue to the House for a debate because it has costs for the finance institution,” he maintained.
Assembly, Parl polls: ECI seeks security report from JK
Srinagar, Jan 19: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has sought a report from the Jammu and Kashmir government about the security situation in the state before taking a final call for conducting parliamentary and J&K Assembly polls.
Almost all the political parties have suggested holding assembly elections simultaneously with parliamentary polls in the state.
The ECI has sought the report from the Chief Electoral Officer about the security situation in J&K.
“The decision about holding of polls will be taken once the final report is submitted to the ECI,” an official at Chief Electoral Office said.
The CEO, the official said, has already briefed the ECI on the preparedness for the parliamentary and assembly elections.
“The CEO JK is set to meet the ECI next week in connection with the polls and submit the final report about the security situation in the state,” the official said.
He added that the state government has constituted two teams headed by divisional commissioners of Kashmir and Jammu. “The CEO will first hold meeting with them before submitting the report to the ECI,” he said.
Following which, the ECI team will visit the state and hold a review of preparedness for the polls.
CEO J&K, Shailendra Kumar, said they held several meetings with the ECI about the preparedness of the polls. “We also held a meeting with the ECI on January 10 and responded to poll body’s queries. Rest I can’t say anything,” he told The Kashmir Monitor.
On Friday, Kumar held a meeting with representatives of political parties to discuss holding of polls. Almost all the parties were of the view that parliamentary and assembly elections should be held together.
The CEO told the political parties that his office has already taken necessary steps for holding the elections, but decision lies with the ECI.
Kumar said more than three lakh new voters have been added to the voters’ list in Jammu and Kashmir. He said that many as 3,07,813 additions, 1,25,834 deletions, 94,565 corrections and 14,989 transpositions have been made in the latest voters’ list.
J&K is under President’s rule after six months of Governor’s rule, which began after the BJP withdrew support from the PDP in June last year.
Woman delivers on road after LD refuses admitting her, newborn dies soon after
Govt orders probe; concerned health officials, facilities widely criticised
Srinagar, Jan 19: The J&K government Saturday directed Principal, Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar to probe the incident in which a woman was forced to deliver on the roadside in sub-zero temperatures in Srinagar leading to the death of her baby.
The woman from the far-flung area of Moori, Kalaroos in north Kashmir’s Kupwara was reportedly refused entry by doctors late Thursday night after which she gave birth to a baby on the roadside near Lal Ded, Kashmir’s premier maternity hospital here.
Suraya Begum delivered a girl around 8.30 pm in chilling weather and her baby died soon after birth, The Indian Express reported.
The woman’s brother, Hami Zaman, as per the report, said Suraya had developed labour pain on Thursday at home.
With nearly 3-feet snow in the area, the road between Mooree and Kalaroos, where the nearest hospital is located, was not motorable. “Around 15 people put my sister on a charpoy and we walked for six hours to reach the hospital (in Kalaroos, around 14 km away),” he said.
Doctors there referred her to Kupwara hospital, from where she was further referred to Lal Ded Hospital in Srinagar.
At Lal Ded, the family said, Suraya was kept under observation for a few hours. Hospital authorities, as per the Express report, subsequently refused to admit her.
“At around 8.30 pm, my sister developed severe pain again and delivered a baby girl on the road. The newborn died immediately,” Zaman said.
The normal delivery by the woman also puts a question mark on the functioning of peripheral hospitals especially in Kupwara from where she was referred late in the evening to Srinagar.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Khan said that a formal order has been issued to Principal GMC requiring him to look into the factual position as regards denial of entry of the woman into the hospital leading her delivering on the roadside as a consequence of which her baby died.
“This incident needs a thorough inquiry to find out the factual position, so that appropriate action is taken against the concerned if found liable for such negligence/act,” reads the order issued by the Divisional Commissioner to the Principal GMC.
“You are accordingly directed to enquire into the matter and furnish the inquiry report along with your explicit comments within two days, treating the matter most urgent,” the order added.
Medical Superintendent of Lal Ded hospital, Dr Shabir Sidiqui said that the matter has been already taken up with the head of the Department Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr Farhat Jabeen.
“Pending inquiry, the doctor who was on duty on Thursday has been attached to Principal GMC, Srinagar,” the Superintendent said.
The incident was widely condemned.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti expressed pain and anguish over it.
Taking to Twitter, Omar said he hoped the administration led by governor Satya Pal Malik would take immediate take action in the tragic case.
“I hope the state functionaries working under the command of @jandkgovernor take immediate action in this tragic case,” Omar wrote on Twitter.
Mehbooba expressed her pain for turning away the pregnant woman from the lone maternity care hospital in capital city, saying “she cannot even begin to fathom the pain & trauma the parents must feel.”
“Heart wrenching that a pregnant woman was turned away from a hospital, which ironically is named after the great Kashmiri mystic saint Lal Ded. She later gave birth to a still born in frigid temperatures. Cannot even begin to fathom the pain & trauma the parents must feel,” she tweeted.
JJ panel directs CWC to register case
The Juvenile Justice Panel Saturday expressed deep shock and anguish over the “criminal negligence” of Lal Ded hospital Authorities in refusing to admit and to provide medical assistance to the woman from Kalaroos, Kupwara.
Justice Hasnain Masoodi, Chairperson, Selection cum Oversight Committee and G A Sofi, Mission Director, ICPS lamented over the gross negligence of the doctors at LD, while inaugurating one day Capacity Building workshop for Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) for Chairperson and Members of CWCs of Jammu Division.
It was pointed out that right to be born and right to survive are important rights of a child, recognized under International Convention on Child Rights (CRC), Constitution of India and the State and any violation of the rights is not only condemnable in strongest words but punishable under Law. The incident was said to indicate insensitivity of stakeholders to the Child Rights and Child Protection issues.
Justice Masoodi requested government to initiate a time bound probe into the matter so that erring Doctors/officials are identified and dealt with under Law without any delay and consider overhauling the Hospital Administration in the meantime.
The CWC, Srinagar has been asked to enquire into the matter and on the basis of outcome get a case registered against the Doctor responsible for the incident, under relevant provisions of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2013 as also Ranbir Penal Code.
PDP expels Altaf Bukhari for ‘anti-party’ activities
Srinagar, Jan 19: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Saturday expelled its leader Altaf Bukhari from the party alleging he was involved in “anti-party” activities, which were being “watched with concern for quite some time”.
“Ever since the passing away of our founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, he (Altaf) has been pursuing his personal political ambition at the cost of the party and state interest,” a PDP spokesperson said in a statement.
“Bukhari inspired and led dissent in the party at its most crucial stage, which resulted in serious damage to our efforts at implementing the agenda of alliance of our coalition government. While the party leadership was engaged in negotiations with its partner and the Government of India insisting on implementing some agreed points before forming the new government, the dissension weakened its bargaining position forcing subsequent events against its will,” PDP said.
“In spite of this obvious backstabbing and subversion of people’s interest, the party leadership believed in subsequent explanations and assurances of Bukhari and reposed complete trust in him by reinducting him in cabinet,” PDP spokesperson added.
“Unfortunately, ever after the end of the coalition, Bukhari, instead of pursuing party interest in accordance with the expectations of our voters and workers, started open attempts at breaking the party by hobnobbing with its rivals,” the statement said, adding that newspapers have been running stories almost on daily basis to create impression of Bukhari being at the centre of a ‘rebellion’ brewing in the Party.
“The leadership waited in the hope of Bukhari rejecting these reports to clear the air. But unfortunately he did nothing to remove this impression. It was therefore decided to expel Bukhari from party’s basic membership with immediate effect,” the spokesperson added.
Bukhari welcomes move: ‘Was imprisoned, feel free now’
Srinagar, Jan 19: Former finance minister, Syed Altaf Bukhari on Saturday welcomed the decision taken by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to expel him, saying that he feels “freed from the confinement”.
Soon after being expelled, Bukhari, as per Kashmir News Service, said: “I am happy that the party has taken a decision to expel me. I feel that I have been relieved from a huge burden and I am freed from the imprisonment and confinement.”
He added that to be in the party was against his voice of conscience. “I am happy that the party has taken this decision. I welcome the party’s decision.”
Altaf was considered as the top leaders of PDP ever since he joined the party. He was inducted in the cabinet twice and served in different portfolios.
In political circles, he was presented as the Chief Minister candidate from the party after the death of former Chief Minister and PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.
Notably, the political maneuvering in Jammu and Kashmir is getting momentum as various political leaders are moving to other political parties ahead of the parliamentary and assembly elections here.
The decision of expelling Altaf from the party is likely to strengthen the third front that is currently being revived in the State.
Several leaders including Altaf Bukhari, Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami, Ghulam Hassan Mir and Hakeem Muhammad Yaseen are among the leaders who are in talks to revive the third front.
The leaders had told KNS that the third front will be reemerged in the state likely ahead of the elections