The seven biggest talking points in AAP's Delhi budget
What gets a boost?
- Education and healthcare sectors have received huge cash boosts.
- Govt is going ahead with its direct democracy plans, giving 11 constituencies Rs 20 crore each to spend how they want.
- Workers can now expect to be paid on time after a Rs 5,000-crore boost to municipal bodies.
- Govt is also trying to clean up Delhi\'s environment through various steps.
- Plans are afoot to improve women\'s security in public and private buses.
What is dearer?
- Five per cent increase in luxury tax, which will make spa and gym visits and hotel stays more expensive.
- Going to the movies will be dearer, as the entertainment tax has been doubled to 40%.
- Monthly entertainment tax for DTH and cable TV has been upped by Rs 40.
Despite all the crises and controversies it may have been in, the Aam Aadmi Party has consistently come out stronger by identifying itself with, and serving, its core voter base.
This is the section of the people heavily dependent on the state for education and healthcare.
AAP's maiden budget on Thursday was therefore, unsurprisingly, aimed at improving these two services. It is the biggest budget Delhi has ever seen and a lion's share of it will go to education - almost Rs 10,000 crore. The next big share, almost Rs 5,000 crore, will go towards improving healthcare.
The government has managed to do this by increasing taxes on luxuries like DTH and cable television services, eating out, watching movies and staying at 'luxury' hotels.
Here are some of the highlights of the budget.
AAP has managed to set aside Rs 253 crore for what it calls the 'Swaraj Fund'. This is basically the money over which the common man will have the final say.
The Arvind Kejriwal government has chosen to start this experiment in 11 of the 70 constituencies in the capital, whereby each constituency will get Rs 20 crore and its own people will decide how to spend this money.
Since its formation, AAP hasn't been able to restrain itself from the idea of direct democracy, but in this case, it might just work and a set a new precedent.
The government's allocation of Rs 9,836 crore for education is a 106% hike over last year. The government has set itself an ambitious target of achieving 100% literacy in two years (the current literacy rate is 86%).
For this, the government has decided to appoint 20,000 more teachers, install CCTVs in all classrooms, provide up to Rs 10 lakh collateral-free loans to students for higher education, and develop 50 model schools.
To equip all private colleges in Delhi with wifi, Rs 50 crore will be spent.
The lower middle class and poor people living in Delhi rely mostly on government hospitals for their primary healthcare. However, these hospitals are always crowded and short of space for new patients.
AAP has rewarded this section of people for its overwhelming support in the last assembly elections by proposing to add 10,000 new hospital beds and 500 new neighbourhood clinics in the city. This will be achieved at the cost of Rs 4,787 crore and is a much-needed initiative for a city woefully short on accessible health facilities.
[twittable]The govt has increased taxes on a few luxuries to boost education and healthcare for the lower-middle class[/twittable]
Thousands of sanitation workers, doctors, teachers and engineers employed with the three municipalities have not been getting their salaries on time for four months now.
The AAP government knew how, despite blaming the inefficiency of BJP's running of the municipalities, non-payment of MCD staff was going to hurt them in the long run.
So the AAP has given them a huge boost - Rs 4,908 crore - a sum that should help all the three municipalities recover their debts and pay their employees the due salaries. AAP may also have made this move with an eye on the next municipal polls, which are to be held in less than two years.
The government has signalled its serious intent about conserving the environment. A few days ago, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had warned industries in Delhi to be prepared for 'adverse measures'.
It has now decided to impose an entry fee, ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 1,500, on commercial goods vehicles entering Delhi. It has also set aside Rs 3,656 crore to rejuvenate the river Yamuna.
In addition, it has promised to add 10,000 buses to the DTC fleet in the capital, which should help reduce emissions from vehicles. Not having to rely on the industries' lobby will be a big advantage for this government in tackling the capital's environment issues.
No new taxes have been included in the budget, as AAP had promised in its election manifesto. However, this being the first year for the party since it came to power with an unprecedented majority, AAP has had room to increase some taxes to subsidise education, healthcare, power and water in the city.
For instance, it has introduced a five per cent increase in luxury tax, will make spa and gym visits and hotel stays more expensive. The government has also decided to double the entertainment tax to 40% for watching movies, and increase monthly entertainment tax for watching DTH television at home by Rs 40.
The government has promised to install CCTVs in all DTC and privately-run cluster buses to give a sense of security to women. It has already started the process of deploying thousands of marshals on buses. Also, the government promised to set up hostels for working women.