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Bengal to have special Rs 100 cr fund to avoid farmers' distress sale

Kolkata: Slamming the Narendra Modi government's demonetisation move, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra on Wednesday said the note ban move affected the agro-economy badly and he has set aside Rs 100 crore to avoid any distress sale of agricultural produce.
"With the excessive agricultural productions, the prices of agro commodities fall and farmers have no alternative but to sell their produce at lower prices. They face a financial crunch.
"In order to avoid the distress sale and ensure proper support prices for farmers' produce, the Chief Minister (Mamata Banerjee) proposed a special fund. I propose Rs 100 crore for this special fund," he said while presenting the state budget for financial year 2018-19.
Mitra said that the agro economy depends on the cash driven transactions due to "lack of banking services in the rural areas" and it was "badly affected due to the centre's demonetisation move".
In his budget speech, Mitra also accused the centre of destroying unorganised sector contributing 45 per cent to India's economy by the note ban move and unplanned implementation of Goods and Services Tax.
Mitra criticised the erstwhile Left Front government for creating huge debt burden for the state and claimed that the Trinamool Congress government was able to reduce debt-GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratio.
"When we came to power state's debt-GDP ratio was 40.65 per cent in 2010-11. We are able to bring it down to 33.71 per cent because of the increase in state GDP that helps to reduce the ratio. It is going down every day," he said, adding that 30-40 per cent of the debt that the present state government is raising today goes into developmental funds that help increasing state GDP.
"Previous government borrowed to repay the existing debt only," he alleged.
He also claimed the state ensured creation of 8.92 lakh employment opportunities in the state during the current fiscal, despite the demonetisation blow and unplanned implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) by the Centre.
In view of the upcoming Panchayat elections in the state, Mitra emphasised on agriculture and rural areas in his budget proposals though Banerjee claimed state budget focused only on "development agenda".
Presenting a budget for 2018-19 sans any fresh taxes, he also proposed exemption on mutation fee in case of selling of farm land for agricultural activities, and increasing pension benefits for old agricultural workers.
"Our industrial progress is based on continuous employment creation. AEmployment generation is our priority. We have given focus on villages and agriculture in the budget because rural areas constitute about 82-85 per cent of the state. The budget also provides funds for schemes on social security benefits," Banerjee told reporters.
Admitting that the tea industry was reeling under pressure, Mitra said the small tea growers were yet to come up from the hardship they had faced and in order to help the sector, proposed "full exemption" of taxes on agricultural income for tea gardens for the next two financial years.
Mitra also removed the education and other cess on the tea production.
To boost the real estate sector, particularly the housing segment, he proposed to reduce stamp duty fee by one per cent on the value of wealth worth Rs 40 lakh to Rs one crore.
With the state has been spending Rs 1,200 crore annually for benefits of girls' education including the Kanyashree project, Mitra also proposed a new project - Rupashree - for assisting families with annual income less than Rs 1.5 lakh for the marriage of eligible women of these families.
"I allocate Rs 1,500 crore for the Rupashree project and with this project, six lakh families will be benefitted annually," he said.
He also proposed a new pension scheme for disabled persons with the objective to provide monthly pension of Rs 1,000 for two lakh disabled persons and allocated Rs 250 crore for this scheme.
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