Assam’s first female finance minister tables ‘pro-people’ Budget

COVID aid announced; smartphones for class IX, X students to bridge digital divide

GUWAHATI, July 16: Assam finance minister Ajanta Neog presented “a pro-people” state budget for 2021-22, without levying any new taxes, apparently in the wake economic hardships faced across sections amid the pandemic, and with an aim to bolster the COVID-hit economy, uplift the economically disadvantaged and steer the state’s pace of progress.

“This is a budget not just for a year but a vision document for the next five years,” Neog, who scripted a slice of history by becoming the first female finance minister of Assam to table the state Budget in the state Assembly on Friday, said at the outset.

The Rs 566.20 crore deficit budget is also the first state Budget under the new BJP-led coalition government led by chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

“During the financial year 2021-22, the revenue of the state is estimated at Rs 107317.55 crore, out of which Rs 41996.37 crore is tax revenue, Rs 6097.60 crore is non-tax revenue, Rs 40885.44 crore grant-in-aid receipts, Rs 8325.53 crore is public debt and Rs 12.61 crore is recoveries of loans and advances,” Neog stated.

“Out of the total estimated expenditure of Rs 107556.29 crore during 2021-22, Rs 84,405.47 crore is revenue expenditure and Rs 23150.82 crore is capital expenditure,” she said.

Among the key features proposed in the budget include a one-time compensation to Rs one lakh the next of the kin of those who died due to COVID-19; a mission to build 1000km of embankments and roads to make Assam flood free; micro finance loan waiver for economically vulnerable people through incentives and a new district and creation of 1,000 model Anganwadi centres.

“The government has, in order to minimise the learning loss and bridge the digital divide, taken an innovative step to provide smartphones (free Internet package) to the students of class IX and X which will mitigate learning losses in respect of under privileged students. This will act as a deterrent against dropout rate in schools. This scheme will benefit almost 8 lakh students,” the finance minister said.

Given that the state is primarily an agrarian economy, the budget proposed to constitute an Agriculture Commission under a scientist of international repute to focus on issues related to agriculture, animal husbandry, dairy sector in Assam.

It proposed to create a new department, – Department of Indigenous Faith and Culture, besides creation of one more district, Tamulpur, which is presently in Baksa district, in order “to facilitate good governance.”

The budget also focuses on some of the government’s pre-poll promises, with a promise to employ one lakh educated youths of the state in the government sector.

Under the direct beneficiary transfer (DBT) scheme, Orunodoi, one of the largest initiatives for women empowerment, the budget proposed to increase the monthly amount to Rs 1000 per family from the current financial benefit of Rs 830 per family.

“The budget proposes to provide tapped drinking water connections to all the households in the tea gardens of the state. This scheme will cover 805 tea gardens across Assam within a year,” Neog said.

Under Blue Revolution (‘Sunil Biplab’), community-based fish culture will be promoted by constructing 10,000 village community tanks of 1 hectare each in all revenue villages of Assam.

Under a special assistance scheme for small traders and artisans hit by the COVID pandemic, a one-time grant will be provided to cottage industries, small traders and artisans.

 

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