Tax-free budget in Tamil Nadu; sops for farmers

Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister O Panneerselvam presents the state budget for 2019-20 at Assembly, in Chennai, on Friday.

In an election year, Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Friday presented a tax-free budget for 2019-2020 fiscal even as he projected the outstanding debt by the end of the next financial year to be Rs 3.97 lakh crore.

The budget also announced a slew of schemes to help people in Cyclone Gaja-hit areas to lead a normal life, expanded the crop insurance scheme for farmers and unveiled an accident-cum-life insurance scheme for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families.

Presenting the Budget, Panneerselvam, who holds the finance portfolio, also projected the revenue deficit to be around Rs 14,300 crore for the coming fiscal and pinned the blame on Centre for the state’s financial woes — he cited the delay in reimbursement of the state’s component in tax revenues.

For Chennai, the deputy chief minister announced taking up of a feasibility study for the extension of Metro rail line from the city airport station to Kilambakkam bus terminus. He also said work on the Phase-II of the Chennai Metro project that envisages connecting some of the densely populated areas of the city would begin soon.

He also announced that the government plans to procure 2,000 new electric buses, besides 12,000 new BS-VI vehicles, at an outlay of Rs 5,890 crore with loan assistance from the German firm KfW. The budget also allotted Rs 2,000 crore for constructing an integrated parking lot in the capital city.

Talking in detail about the damages caused by Gaja that hit the Cauvery Delta region in November last year, Panneerselvam said the government will take up construction of one lakh concrete houses in Nagapattinam and Thanjavur.

"The government will take up the construction of one lakh concrete houses with a unit cost of Rs 1.70 lakh to replace damaged huts in districts affected by Gaja cyclone at a total cost of Rs 1,700 crore," he said, adding that the government will notify more crops and expand the coverage under the Crop Insurance Scheme in the next financial year.

The per capita income of the state has increased from Rs 1.03 lakh in 2011-12 to Rs 1.42 lakh in 2017-18 in real terms, he said in his nearly 150-minute speech.

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