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Friday, July 30, 2021

Assam budget: Rs 1 lakh compensation to Covid victim families, hospitals in rural areas and more

Terming it a “historic day” as it was the first time a woman finance minister was placing the budget in the state Assembly, Sarma said the budget was “welfare oriented”, “pro-poor” and would “greatly strengthen the Covid-ravaged economy of Assam”.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: July 16, 2021 11:08:28 pm
Assam budgetChief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma pegged it as a “historic day” for Assam with Ajanta Neog as the state’s woman Finance minister to present the Budget. (Express Photo)

Mobile phones for Class 9 and 10 school students, establishment of five new medical colleges and 1,000 hospitals in rural areas and one lakh compensation to those who have lost family members to Covid-19 are among the significant welfare schemes announced by Assam’s first woman Finance Minister Ajanta Neog on Friday in the state budget for 2021-22.

This is the first budget of the new BJP-led government under Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Terming it a “historic day” as it was the first time a woman finance minister was placing the budget in the state Assembly, Sarma said the budget was “welfare oriented”, “pro-poor” and that it would “greatly strengthen the Covid-ravaged economy of Assam”.

“Whether it’s relieving women trapped in micro-finance debts or providing job opportunities to unemployed youth — we fulfil some of our promises we made during the elections in this budget,” Sarma said.

Neog, while tabling the Rs 566.20 crore deficit budget in the state Assembly on Friday, said that she was taking forward Sarma’s (who was the Finance Minister in the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government) trend of a budget that did not propose any new tax on the public. “On the vein of the laudable decision of our Hon’ble Chief Minister, who as the Finance Minister took the historic decision to place his budgets without placing any extra tax or financial burden on the populace, I too, with the aim of continuing this trend, would like to hereby place my budget without levying any extra tax on the public,” she said. Neog added that the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) had grown by 11.22 per cent in the period between 2015-16 and 2019-20.

18 flagship schemes (on agriculture, education, health, tea garden workers, women, among others) were also announced. While the government has already announced a Chief Minister’s Shishu Seva Scheme and Chief Minister’s Covid-19 Widow Support Scheme, it was proposed that an amount of Rs 1 lakh would be provided to the next of kin of a Covid-19 victim. Apart from that, the Assam Microfinance Incentive and Relief Scheme (AMFIRS) 2021 was announced to aid distressed borrowers of micro-finance loans. Neog also said that they would provide smartphones to the students of class 9 and 10 to “to minimise the learning loss and bridge the digital divide.”

Keeping with the government’s election promise of making Assam flood-free in the next five years, Neog announced that 1,000 km of embankment-cum-roads will be built along the Barak and Brahmaputra rivers.

Additionally, one lakh vacancies across 48 state government departments will be filled. Under the ‘Affordable Nutrition and Nourishment Assistance (ANNA) Yojana and Anna Nischito Asoni’,  people left out from the National Food Security Act, 2013 in the urban areas, such as homeless and destitute, will be provided free cooked meals with the help of reputed NGOs. 2,69,648 people in 805 tea estates have been earmarked for assistance in the form of functioning household tap connections and piped gas supply.

Road infrastructure will get a boost with Rs 5,556 crore allocated under the Asom Mala. Neog said that 1,000 model Anganwadi centres will be set up with Rs 13.50 crore. Each centre will be constructed at a cost of Rs 25 lakh.

The government also plans to boost its flagship DBT Orunodoi scheme — announced in previous year’s budget — for women of marginalised families. This year, the monthly assistance will be increased from Rs 830 to Rs 1000. Rs 100 crore has been allocated to the new Department of Indigenous Faith and Culture introduced by the Cabinet earlier this week to promote and preserve the culture of indigenous groups in the state.

Five new medical colleges at Rs 16 crore each will be set up in Golaghat, Dhemaji, Morigaon, Bongaigaon and Tamulpur districts.

1,000 rural health sub-centers will be converted to ‘Buniyadi Swasthya Kendra (BSK)’ where free medical consultation will be provided.

The government has announced establishment of two new Wildlife Safari and Rescue Centres at Silchar and Dibrugarh, a rehabilitation package for surrendered National Democratic Front of Bodoland cadres and a university in Karbi Anglong district for the benefit of the students of the Hill districts of the state.

The government has also introduced the use of sex-sorted artificial insemination to increase births of female calves. “It would control the birth of scrub bulls as 80% to 90% of all births would be female calves,” said Neog, adding that this step would help meet the ever-increasing demand for milk in the state. Farmers’ livelihood and milk production will get a massive boost leading to a positive impact on the economy.

The total budget size for 2021-22 is Rs 2,89,367.10 crore, which is lower by 1.12 per cent from the 2020-21 revised estimates (Rs 2,92,660.23 crore). The fiscal deficit (as a percentage of state GSDP) for 2021-22 is estimated to be 0.19 per cent, compared to 0.33 per cent for 2020-21.

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