Tribune News Service
Shimla, December 30
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur today urged the Central Government to increase import duty on apple from 50 per cent to 100 per cent to protect Himachal growers and approve the Mandi airport project.
He made the request while participating in the meeting for consultations on the Union Budget 2022-23 in New Delhi today. “Apple is the main horticultural crop of the state and a primary source of livelihood for a large population. However, due to a huge arrival of imported apple in the national market, the prices of Himachal apple have fallen sharply, leading to revenue loss to local horticulturists,” he said.
Thakur said the import duty on apple should be increased and the crop should be excluded from the list of fruits and other commodities brought under the Open General Licence.
He said the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had found the proposed site in Mandi district suitable for the construction of a greenfield airport and had also accorded the final technical go-ahead. “Therefore, the project may be included in the upcoming Union Budget items and be declared a project of national importance, as it has strategic importance, being close to Leh,” he said. The estimated cost of the project is about Rs 300 crore.
The Chief Minister also sought additional Rs 600 crore in the form of special assistance, besides the continuation of the Ways and Means Advances limit to compensate for the decrease in revenue of the state due to Covid-19. He thanked the Union Government for according approval to proposals of about Rs 10,620 crore of various externally-aided projects in the state in the past four years.
He urged the Centre to extend the GST compensation facility for three more years. “The state was receiving GST compensation and the revenue deficit grant (RDG) as part of the Central assistance. The GST compensation is effective only till June 2022. Moreover, the RDG will also be reduced in the coming years, as per the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission, which will adversely affect the finances of the state government. Therefore, the GST compensation facility should be continued,” he said.
The Chief Minister also urged the Centre to extend the Industrial Development Policy-2017 for the next five years in order to boost economic growth in the state. “The Industrial Development Policy being implemented by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry will be effective till March 31, 2022. It should be extended further so as to promote industrial development,” he said.