Budget 2017: Its relevance to India’s North East

The BJP is on campaign mode in at least five states, UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand Goa and Manipur and this budget is intended to covertly influence the voters in these states. Of the five states, only Manipur is from the North Eastern region. Assam is already with the BJP. The budget, however does not show any significant gains for the North Eastern states. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Government would boost employment opportunities in the region by setting up BPO promotion schemes under Digital India and the Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited and Numaligarh Refinery Limited’s wax unit. In fact Assam appears to be the biggest gainer from this budget because of the several ongoing interventions by the Ministry of Road Transport and Railways. Not that the other states will be left behind though. The mandatory allocations for the region across all central ministries has been increased from Rs. 32,180 crores (2016) to Rs. 43,245 crores this year. This started during the Vajpayee Government in 2000, when it was decided that all central ministries would allocate 10 percent of their budget to service the North Eastern states. This amount if unspent in a particular financial year goes to the non- lapsable pool of central resources (NLCPR). What is ironic is that the accumulated amount under the NLCPR today and which is lying with the Ministry of Finance is to the tune of Rs 15, 000 crore.

While the North Eastern Council is starved of funds for implementing inter-state projects its budget has reduced over the years. In fact the NEC has been eclipsed by the Ministry for the Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER) This time DoNER itself got just a minor raise from Rs. 2524 crore in 2016 to Rs. 2682 crore this year. The North Eastern Council has not received any financial boost this year. Naturally this has raised the hackles of North East MPs, particularly those from the non-BJP ruled states. Perhaps the Centre is toying with the idea of directly implementing schemes related to infrastructure creation for better delivery.

This can be seen from the increased allocations in the roads sector from 57,976 crores in 2016-17 to ` 64,900 crores this fiscal with total road length having risen to about 1,40,000 kms between 2015 till date. The Finance Minister talked of boosting organic farming in the North East but this will take a complete overhaul of agricultural protocols and benchmarks.

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