West Bengal finance minister Dr Amit Mitra presented the state budget on Thursday at the Assembly and keeping in mind the Panchayat elections later this year, he announced a number of tax reliefs for rural Bengal.In the budget, stamp duty of properties in urban and rural areas have been lowered by 1%. “The stamp duty on all properties valued between Rs 40 lakh and Rs 1 crore will come down from 6% to 5% in rural areas and 7% to 6% in the urban areas,” he said.To help the tea industry, the state had proposed to waive income tax of tea gardens for the financial years 2018-19 and 2019-20. Education Cess and Rural Employment Cess have also been waived for tea gardens for 2018-19.Hitting out at the Centre, Dr Mitra said that demonetisation had hit rural economy adversely and thus to help them mutation fee for agricultural land sold for agricultural purposes, has been exempted fully.An amount of Rs 100 crore has been allotted to create a corpus fund in order to help farmers in times of contingencies when prices crash so that they do not have to sell their produce.Monthly pension of farmers has been raised from Rs 750 to Rs 1,000 and the number of recipients would be raised from 66,000 to 1,00,000. Also against the present 44,000 physically challenged people receiving an assistance of Rs 750 each, the number of recipients would be raised by another 200,000 and the amount would be raised to Rs 1000 each. An amount of Rs 250 crore has been allotted for the purpose.Later at a press conference Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lauded the budget saying that equal importance has been paid to agriculture and industry. “While the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) had been put up to attract industrial investment in the state, the budget had been aimed at helping the agricultural sector,” she said. She elaborated how allotment for Kanyashree, one of her pet projects, has been raised and another ‘Rupashree’ had been introduced, according to which, a one-time assistance of Rs 25,000 would be given to the family of a girl with annual income up to Rs 1.5 lakh. Dr Mitra announced a budget allocation of Rs 1500 crore for Rupashree scheme.Asked if the budget was placed keeping in mind the forthcoming panchayat polls, she said, “The Centre does it. What they are likely to do on Friday is an election budget. They might make huge promises which are not likely to be fulfilled. I believe the Union government should come out with a white paper declaring how much black money they have managed to recover,” Banerjee said.

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West Bengal presents farmer-friendly budget keeping an eye on Panchayat elections