Friday, April 19, 2024

Budget focus on women empowerment


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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, Feb 21: The overall allocation for the empowerment of women in Meghalaya for the 2024-25 fiscal is Rs 5,271 crore.
Presenting the budget on Wednesday, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said women are at the forefront of generating prosperity in the state’s countryside. This is evident from the sharp increase in the number of self-help groups in the last five years.
From 60,000 women in 2018, the state’s SHG network today comprises 4.37 lakh members, he said.
The women’s groups collectively have an accumulated corpus of more than Rs 700 crore. Over the next four years, the objective is to create women’s enterprises with a total valuation of $1 billion.
An allocation of Rs 389 crore for 2024-25 has been made for continued implementation of the SHG programme, Sangma said.
About 60% of the FOCUS beneficiaries and CM-ELEVATE applicants are women. With structured support and hand-holding, the existing women’s networks of the state can generate about 1 lakh job opportunities.
Traditional women networks such as ‘Seng Kynthei’ from the Khasi Hills and women’s groups from the Garo Hills have always been active segments of Meghalaya’s civil society.
A new programme will be launched for providing funding support and for structured engagement with traditional and new women’s networks, he said.
Youth budget
The size of the youth budget that encompasses all the activities undertaken for youth stands at Rs 2,853 crore in 2024-25, the chief minister said.
As promised in the last budget, halls and infrastructure in the form of artificial turfs, synthetic tracks, indoor halls, and natural grounds will be developed across the state.
The construction of the first set of projects worth Rs 108 crore, including the Kynshi Stadium in West Khasi Hills and the Wahlyngkhat Stadium in the Pynursla subdivision, will begin soon. Other projects worth Rs 200 crore are being finalised.
Meghalaya’s biggest stadium along with a world-class aquatics and swimming complex will be built at New Shillong Knowledge City at Mawkhanu at an estimated cost of Rs 350 crore, Sangma said.
For 2024-25, Rs 120 crore has been allocated for sports infrastructure.
The YESS Meghalaya programme was launched to encourage the youth groups to take up various grassroots-level activities such as sports, healthcare, arts and culture, entertainment, and environmental action.
To date, 1,430 youth groups have been supported with Rs 5 crore under the programme. Rs 20 crore has been allocated for 2024-25.
The overall allocation for the sports and youth sector for 2024-25 is Rs 246 crore, an increase of 15% over last year.
Skilling young Meghalayans in locally relevant trades such as integrated farming and hospitality to cutting-edge trades such as machine learning, 3D printing, and robotics is a key priority for the government, the chief minister said.
Over the next four years, the government has an ambitious target of skilling 1.2 lakh youngsters in marketable skills under the ‘Skills Meghalaya’ programme with an investment of Rs 360 crore.
A world-class Skills and Innovation Hub will be built at New Shillong for Rs 82 crore. “The PRIME programme was launched to foster an entrepreneurial spirit amongst the state’s youth and to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The programme is currently supporting more than 5,500 entrepreneurs and more than 210 startups. I am allocating Rs 100 crore for the implementation of PRIME and CM-ELEVATE for 2024-25,” Sangma said.
Power sector
The overall investment in the power sector including capital investments in transmission, distribution, and generation for 2024-25 is Rs 1,558 crore.
“This year, the government arrived at an amicable settlement of the longstanding payments owed to National Thermal Power Corporation. Following this, NTPC has started providing 53 megawatts of electricity daily to the state which has helped in alleviating the load-shedding challenge during the winter months,” Sangma said.
Under the Meghalaya Power Distribution Sector Improvement Project, 24 new substations are being set up and 48 existing substations are being renovated. The distribution architecture is undergoing upgradation under the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme being implemented for Rs 1,092 crore.
The government is infusing substantial equity into the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited and is taking over the losses of the distribution company. Rs 950 crore was spent this year.
“The high quantum of government support is expected to give the power corporation time to resolve complex issues and to transition towards loss reduction and improved efficiency. I am budgeting Rs 850 crore for supporting the power corporation in 2024-25,” the chief minister said.
The state launched the CM Solar Mission this year under which up to 90% subsidy is provided for setting up solar power systems in rural households and enterprises. This programme has an outlay of Rs 145 crore over three years.
For the overall strengthening of health systems, Rs 1,970 crore has been allocated for 2024-25, including Rs 173 crore for the MHIS programme.
Health infrastructure has been a key focus area of the state government with 96 health facilities having been upgraded, 377 sub-centres solarised and 20 community health centres converted to first referral units with a capability of conducting emergency caesarean sections.
Continuing the infrastructure development efforts, a comprehensive three-year mission to revamp all health facilities in the state will be launched from 2024-25 with an investment of Rs 500 crore. In the first phase, the civil hospitals in all the district quarters and 100 other facilities will be prioritised.
“Adequate human resources are the second critical ingredient for improving healthcare. The government has empowered the Health Department to flexibly recruit about 300 nurses and technicians. This will ensure that critical health services like ICUs and blood storage units can be operationalised,” Sangma said.
Radical reforms have been undertaken to streamline the procurement and delivery of drugs and medical equipment through the setting up of Meghalaya Medical Drugs and Services Ltd. The overall drug procurement cost of the state is expected to come down by 45% this year due to improved efficiency and transparency.
“I am allocating Rs 100 crore for procurement of drugs, equipment, and services in 2024- 25. Essential drugs list will be notified at the facility level and the information will be made available to citizens online,” the CM said.
“One of the most important diseases that continue to trouble us is cancer. To deal with this challenge, we launched the Megh Can Care programme in East Khasi Hills to screen every individual who is 30 years and above for various types of cancer. Over 50,000 people were screened last year alone and we aim to cover about 1 lakh people this year. To take this initiative to other districts, I am allocating Rs 10 crore,” he added.
“I am allocating Rs 3,539 crore to strengthen all the interventions in the education sector, including Rs 1,335 crore as grants-in-aid salaries,” Sangma said.
Under the Early Childhood Development Mission, the government plans to upgrade 2,148 existing Anganwadi centres and expand the network to cover all villages by opening new centres in 1,500 uncovered villages. An investment of Rs 500 crore will be made over the next five years, with next year’s allocation at Rs 47 crore.
“My government has undertaken a phased upgradation of infrastructure in all the 2,044 government schools under the umbrella of Mission Education for Rs 326 crore. Major renovation and reconstruction works have been completed in 220 secondary and higher secondary schools and works are ongoing in about 100 schools,” he said.
Another 1,725 schools are at different stages of renovation. It is a matter of great satisfaction that by the end of next year, all government schools will have dignified learning environments. Mission Education 2.0 will be launched in 2024-25.
“To provide assured minimum facilities – power, clean drinking water, toilets, and basic furniture – at all government schools, I am allocating Rs 100 crore for Mission Education for 2024-25,” Sangma said.
To engage adolescents and youth at the community level, the government has sanctioned an ambitious project for the setting up of libraries for children and adolescents in 750 villages of the state at an estimated cost of Rs 162 crore.
The Chief Minister’s Scholarship Scheme will be provided in 2024-25 to the meritorious students in classes XI and XII. The government will also be launching a new programme for promoting the comprehensive well-being of adolescents called MPOWER with an investment of Rs 380 crore.


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