Amid rising debt burden, Odisha’s populist schemes questioned

Bhubaneswar: With elections round the corner, the state government is busy wooing voters by announcing various new schemes which have not been provided for in the annual budget, raising questions in the minds of many about the availability of funds at a time when the State’s debt burden is already high.

The state government is all set to implement Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana a few days from now on August 15. It will have to bear an expenditure of Rs 500 crore for providing health cover to nearly 70 lakh families under this scheme. Moreover, it will also implement its own Food Security Act from October 2, under which around 25 lakh people will be provided subsidised rice at Rs 1/kg for which the state exchequer has to bear an additional expenditure of Rs 220 crore in six months. Similarly, another Rs 100 crore annually for Green Mahanadi Mission. The State government has also announced Jaga Yojana to provide free land to 10 lakh slum dwellers.

Amid several such new schemes which had no budgetary allocation, questions are being raised about  how will the government provide for such expenditures while the cumulative debt burden on the state is already looking to cross Rs 93,000 crore by the end of this fiscal.

Odisha Finance Minister however said that any newer schemes, if not allocated funds in the last budget, will be placed in the supplementary budget.

Meanwhile the state government is busy borrowing from the open market. Sources said since the onset of the current fiscal, the government has been borrowing nearly Rs 1000 crore per month from open market to keep its schemes running.

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Odisha Congress president Niranjan Patnaik said announcement of new schemes are just a political gimmick to earn goodwill of people ahead of the general polls.

Similarly, BJP’s state unit Vice-president, Samir Mohanty also came down hard on the ruling-BJD and said “The barrage of new schemes shows that the government wants to burden the people of the state while benefitting a few. In the coming days, people themselves will give a befitting reply.”

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