Anti-pollution measures key in Delhi’s ‘green’ budget, education, health get major share

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New Delhi, March 23: The “green” Delhi budget 2018-19, presented on Thursday, has a 26-point programme for fighting pollution, including 1,000 electric buses and subsidies for switching to non-polluting fuel, while education and health continued to get the lion’s share of allocations.

In the Rs 53,000 crore budget, up from Rs 48,000 crore in 2017-18, Rs 13,997 crore (26 per cent of the budget) was allocated for education sector and Rs 6,729 (12.7 per cent) for health sector.

Presenting his fourth consecutive budget, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who holds the finance portfolio, also in a “first”, introduced timelines for major projects and said that 1,000 electric buses would be rolled out by April 2019 and CCTVs would be installed in schools by mid-January 2019.

In Sisodia’s about 100-minute-long budget speech, he, at least a dozen times, pointed out that particular schemes in the budgets require Lt. Governor Anil Baijal’s approval.

The government also gave Rs 6,903 crore to the local bodies, which is 13 per cent of the total budget and 9.88 per cent higher over 2017-18’s allocations.

The 26 anti-pollution programmes, spanning across four departments — Environment, Transport, Power, and Public Works, include a real-time, round-the-year study in partnership with the University of Washington to understand sources of pollution.

Others include replacing all street lights on PWD roads with energy efficient LED lights, an extensive tree plantation drives, and new city forests in Jaunapur, Ayanagar, Dera Mandi, and Bela Farm among others.

The programmes also have a slew of incentives for switching to non-polluting fuel, including 50 per cent concession in registration charges for private cars with factory-fitted CNG.

Restaurants will be given a subsidy of Rs 5,000 per tandoor to replace coal-based ones with electricity or gas-based variants.

A subsidy of up to Rs 1 lakh will be given to industries in approved industrial areas, to switch to piped natural gas from existing polluting fuels.

Establishments would get a subsidy of up to Rs 30,000 to switch from diesel generator sets to electricity generator sets.

Government will also launch a incentivised pilot Agriculture-cum-Solar Farm scheme, under which solar panels will be installed on raised structures on agricultural farms without affecting the normal farming activities.

Another pilot project plans to install solar panels over 16 km length of cycle tracks.

The Rs 13,997 crore allocated for education sector was up from Rs 3,525 crore in the previous budget and Sisodia said that education has been getting about 25 per cent of the total budget for the third consecutive year.

He said tablets will be provided to all teachers in government schools to help them keep an online record of students.

“We have planned to construct 12,748 additional classrooms and 30 new school buildings and setting up of nursery classes in 366 Sarvodaya Vidyalayas,” he said.

A sum of Rs 175 crore was allotted for installing 1.2 lakh CCTV cameras in all government schools, which would enable parents to view online their children’s activities in the classroom.

The Rs 6,729 crore for health, up from Rs 2,627 crore in the previous budget, has Rs 403 crore allocated for Mohalla Clinics and Polyclinics and Rs 15 crore for setting up mobile van clinics.

Others important allocations include Rs 100 crore for free WiFi access, a project that was pilot-launched in 2016 but failed to take off.

Also, Rs 1,500 crore has been allocated for infrastructure development of unauthorised colonies across the city and Rs 10 crore has been earmarked for starting self-defence classes for girl students of government schools.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, while addressing media after the budget presentation, said that apart from the fight against pollution the government’s thrust areas were roads, water and sewage, noting instead of large sewage treatment plants, smaller ones would be set up so that the recycled water can be used for horticulture, water bodies, and toilets. He also noted that Rs 1,000 crore was allotted for repair of roads under municipal corporations and Rs 100 crore for those in markets.

Attacking the budget, BJP Delhi Chief Manoj Tiwari said: “From working on pollution control to ration distribution, this budget seems concentrating on privatizing the services.”

He also attacked Sisodia for his references to the Lt. Governor, saying “heaping critical comments on the Lt. Governor giving one more evidence of this Government’s anarchic way of working”

Congress’ Delhi President Ajay Maken described the budget as “hollow and a bundle of lies”.