Maharashtra government may take the toll, permit route

The Maharashtra government, in a serious bid to to mop up revenue, has come up with a slew of proposals for additional resource mobilisation. These include the introduction of amnesty schemes for the recovery of long-pending arrears, providing permits for country and foreign liquor shops, sand auctions, increase in various fees charged to patients, the reintroduction of toll on some routes scrapped by the BJP government to fulfil its poll promise of "toll-free Maharashtra’’.

Further, the state government is contemplating increasing the toll for heavy vehicles, introduction of toll on nearly 10,000 km of roads being developed based on the hybrid annuity model. The government wants the public works department to separately take decisions related to road development and award toll contracts for the same road.

The state government wants its departments to reduce hiring of vehicles on contract and cut expenditure on office establishments. They will need to renegotiate lease rentals for offices with landlords. Besides, the state government proposes reduction in the number of schools by merging some of them with others, based on the number of students.

These measures are being actively considered as the state finances have been hit hard because of the Covid-19 crisis and the nationwide lockdown since March 22. There has been a revenue shortfall of Rs 25,046 crore; by the end of July, Rs 61,150 crore were mobilised as against Rs 87,196 crore last year. To tide over the cash crunch, the government has already raised debt worth Rs 30,000 crore against Rs 10,000 crore last year till July.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who holds the finance and planning department, told The Free Press Journal, "The government is serious about reviving the economy and exploring various options for resource mobilisation. Under Mission Begin Again, the state government is making all efforts to revive economic activity. The state cabinet, at its forthcoming meeting, will discuss and give approval to the proposed measures for resource mobilisation.’’

These proposals are based on the recommendations of an 11-member committee and also on suggestions provided by senior economists and experts, including Dr Vijay Kelkar and Dr Raghunath Mashelkar.

The state government, in its annual budget for 2020-21, had estimated total revenue collection of Rs 3,47,456 crore. However, because of the economic downturn and the lockdown, the government expects to collect only Rs 2,55,000, comprising Rs 1,80,000 crore in taxes and fees and debt worth Rs 75,000 crore. ‘’It will not be possible for the state government to keep revenue expenditure below Rs 3 lakh crore ,as it has to spend a whopping Rs 2,55,000 crore alone on wages, pension, interest payment, loan repayment and other committed expenses,’’ an official from the state finance department said, reiterating why short-, medium- and long-term proposals for additional resource mobilisation were being proposed.

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