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After water cess, Himachal CM levies ‘milk cess’ on liquor to raise Rs 100 crore

Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, CM Himachal Pradesh

Shimla: After having passed a bill to levy cess on water being used for power generation in Himachal Pradesh, Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu proposed to impose Rs 10 as ‘Cow cess’ on each bottle of liquor sold in the state in the maiden budget of the Congress government presented today.

This will fetch Rs 100 crore for the state and could even double this amount as one of the resource mobilisation measures needed to improve the fiscal position of Himachal Pradesh.

Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, who presented his maiden budget for year 2023-24 with an outlay of Rs 53,413 crore said he inherited a huge debt burden of Rs 75,000 crore beside a pending liability of Rs 10,000 crore on account of arrears of salaries and pensions, besides DA payable to the staff.

Further the discontinuation of GST compensation after June 2022 has adversely affected the financial position.

“Notwithstanding the challenges, the pace of development will not be allowed to be affected. Thus major initiatives were underway to mobilise resources and new schemes were introduced linking development of infrastructure with job creation in rural sectors,” he announced.

The policy to go in for open auction of liquor vends has posted a record 32 percent increase as compared to mere 10 percent hike during the BJP regime. Some of the districts like Kullu have an increase of 46 percent whereas  Kinnaur has a 66 pc increase.

Nevertheless, Sukhu said, “ We are going to have liquor costlier and milk cheaper in tune with the Himachal Culture.” He termed many new initiatives in the budget as Vyvastha Privartan under the new Congress government.

The opposition BJP members ,who were protesting in the House for the past three days on closure of the institutions opened during its tenure, came to the assembly with black badges. They tried to interrupt the Chief Minister’s speech but Sukhu managed to deliver his full 2 hours 15 minutes speech.

He announced the Rs 500 crore “ Him-Ganga” scheme to develop a milk-based economy in the state to provide true cost of the milk to cattle rearers and improve milk procurement, processing and marketing .

In the budget, Sukhu  made some key announcements on making the state a model of green energy and announced to set-up a 500 MW solar power project in 2023-24.

The government aims to be a green state by March 31, 2026, and is promoting hydropower and solar energy to get there. He announced a slew of green energy schemes, aimed at promoting clean energy and reducing fossil fuel consumption in the state.

The Chief Minister proposed a subsidy of 40 percent for youths taking-up solar power projects between 250 KV to 2 MW on their own land or land taken on the lease.

Six national and state highways will be developed as green corridors for electric vehicles to cut down carbon emissions in the state. Private truck operators or bus operators will be provide subsidy up to 50 percent with maximum limit of Rs 50 lakhs to purchase e-buses and e-trucks . Subsidy up to 50 pc will be allowed to youths proposing to set-up charging centres for electric vehicles.

“ We will replace 1500 buses of state owned HRTC with e-buses in a phased manner with an investment of Rs 1000 crore .A subsidy of Rs 25,000 will be given to 20,000 meritorious school girls to buy electric scooty” said Chief Minister.

In the “Green Budget 2023-24” , the Chief Minister  said he will introduce a Bill to make Himachal Pradesh drug-free .Those found involved in the drug trafficking will be sent to jail for life.

In the budget Chief Minister announced to make Kangra district a tourism capital of the state, link all districts with heliports, undertake expansion of Kangra airport and set-up a Golf course in Kangra.

Sukhu said of 10-guarantees made in the election, one relating to the Old Pension Scheme has been fulfilled. The government has asked the centre to reimburse /return Rs 8000 crore pending as contributions of the New Pension Scheme (NPS).

He said the promise of giving Rs 1500 pm to women in the age group of 18 to 60 years will be fulfilled in a phased manner.