Defending the Gujarat government over Opposition Congress’s criticism that the state’s public debt has increased under the BJP rule, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel on Tuesday stated that the current proportion of debt is six per cent lower than the debt during the Congress regime in the state in 1987-’88.
Speaking in the Gujarat Assembly while concluding the general discussion on the state budget, the DyCM also said that taking loans for developmental works is a global tradition and that Gujarat will continue to take loans for projects such as Narmada Yojana.
Around 85 MLAs and ministers participated in the discussion before Patel. Senior Congress leaders, including Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani and Shailesh Parmar, had criticised the state government for its mounting public debt owing to “financial mismanagement and indiscipline”.
“Which country of the world does not borrow? America, England, Germany, China, or France. Each country takes loan from some place or the other. It is a global tradition. Even the (state) government of (Gujarat in) 1960 also borrowed. The debt was less, but was there,” said Patel.
He added that the public debt has to be seen in proportion and context of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). He added that in 1987-88 when Congress was running the government in Gujarat, the state’s public debt was Rs 3,579 crore, which was 21.90% of the GSDP, meaning almost 22%. In 1991-92, the then Gujarat government had a debt of Rs 6,920 crore, which was 22.59% of the GSDP.
“We have figures of 2019-20. Our public debt is 16.19% of the GSDP. So, it is 6% lower than the times of the Congress government. The figure could be bigger… Our target is to take it down. It is because of the good governance over the past 25 years,” Patel said.
The DyCM also mentioned the Gujarat government’s mega project Narmada Yojana and added that it has already spent over Rs 65,000 crore for the project.
“The scheme is for the farmers, for providing drinking water to four crore people of Gujarat, for providing drinking water to lakhs of animals. For that water, whatever debt is required to be borrowed, we are ready for that. You can criticise it,” he said.
Patel also said that the state government has spent over Rs 1,800 crore for the treatment of Covid-19 patients in the past one year.
Senior Congress MLA from Una constituency, Punja Vansh, alleged that he had pointed out a number of financial irregularities by the state government, but no action was taken. Vansh also criticised the proposed project of discharging chemical effluents into deep-sea, saying that it will cause irreversible damage to marine ecology and livelihood of fishermen.
Congress MLA from Tharad constituency, Gulabsinh Rajput, said that the Gujarat government has made announcement of providing over 2 lakh government jobs. But more than 30,000 government jobs declared previously are yet to be filled due to paper leak and cancellation of examination among other reasons, he said.
Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani said that the promises made by the Gujarat government of providing lakhs of jobs to youths seem superficial in the absence of any concrete details. Mevani also said that during the Covid pandemic, lakhs of people must have lost jobs and hence it was expected from the budget to have a scheme like urban employment guarantee. However, the expectation was not realised in the budget, he added.
Mevani also said that it was very sad that even Class IV employees, including liftmen working at the complex of Gujarat Assembly, were also not getting minimum wages.
Mevani said that while the state government was celebrating 125th anniversary of National Poet Zaverchand Meghani, the budget was not the one of Meghani’s dreams, but the one of (industrialist) Adani’s wishes.