GUWAHATI, Feb 6 - Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma today said the government will focus on 18 flagship schemes in the 2019-20 fiscal, including providing subsidised rice at Re 1 per kg to 53 lakh households in the State, giving one tola gold to brides belonging to the economically weaker section, and expanding the scope of the Atal Amrit Abhiyan.
Presenting the Budget for 2019-20 at the Legislative Assembly, Sarma said the government will focus on the 18 flagship schemes or the ‘Astadash Mukutar Unnoyonee Mala’. “We have finalised a progressive set of 18 schemes. This set comprises five schemes retained from the previous year, while eight schemes are being introduced afresh. The remaining five schemes are expanded versions of the existing schemes. These schemes are broadly focused on areas of capital expenditure and social security,” he said.
Subsidised rice: He announced allocation of Rs 377 crore during 2019-20 for the Affordable Nutrition & Nourishment Assistance (ANNA) Yojana under which subsidised rice will be provided at Re 1 per kg. “Currently under the National Food Security Act, the Central government provides rice at Rs 3 per kg to 57 lakh households in Assam covering a population of 2.46 crore... we will provide rice at a further subsidised rate of Re 1 per kg instead of the present rate... and this move will benefit 53 lakh households,” he said.
Gold for brides: Sarma said the government will give one tola gold to brides under the ‘Arundhati’ scheme, as it is customary to provide gold at the time of marriage. The benefit under this scheme can be availed upon formal registration of marriages under the Special Marriage (Assam) Rules, 1954.
“...we will limit it to only the economically weaker section whose annual income is below Rs 5 lakh. This benefit, however, consistent with our Population Policy, shall be available only for the first two live offsprings of a family and only in cases where the bride and the groom have both attained the legal age of 18 years and 21 years, respectively,” Sarma said, adding that he is earmarking Rs 300 crore for the scheme.
Old age pension: The minister said the PRANAM Commission, set up to handle all cases filed by parents against children who are employees of the State government, will be operationalised completely from February 17. He said the Budget has an allocation Rs 250 crore for Swahid Kushal Konwar Sarbajanin Briddha Pension Asoni to provide more funds as and when new beneficiaries are identified.
Family assistance: Sarma also announced launch of the Immediate Family Assistance Scheme for widows. “We are launching a new scheme under which any woman, up to the age of 45 years, who loses her husband, will receive a lump sum amount of Rs 25,000 as Immediate Family Assistance which will support the family tide over the financial vacuum created by the loss of the bread earner,” he said.
He said in addition to Rs 25,000, for regular maintenance expenses, the widow will also be eligible for a monthly pension of Rs 250 until she attains the age of 60 years, post which, she will be moved to the old age pension scheme.
Dedicating this compassionate pension scheme in the name of Indira Miri, the minister announced an allocation of Rs 136 crore to cover 40,000 families that are expected to benefit under the Immediate Family Assistance Scheme and to cover an estimated 2.4 lakh widows under the Indira Miri Universal Widow Pension Scheme.
Divyang University: The government has fixed an outlay of Rs 200 crore in the budget for the Deen Dayal Divyang Sahayjya Asoni that assures a monthly sum of Rs 1,000 to the divyangjans. He said the government has also decided to set up a university for divyangjans at Boko in Kamrup district.
Scholarship: Sarma announced an allocation of Rs 200 crore for the Minority Girls Scholarship Scheme. He said under the Kanaklata Mahila Sabalikaran Yojana, the government will provide a capital subsidy of Rs 50,000 per self help group (SHG) on bank loans to 63,000 SHGs during 2019-20. He allocated an initial sum of Rs 300 crore for the project.
Atal Amrit Abhiyan: The minister announced expansion of the coverage of Atal Amrit Abhiyan to include ICU packages, trauma, critical care, paediatrics and paediatric surgery, and bone marrow transplantation with an allocation of Rs 200 crore. “The expanded Atal Amrit Abhiyan will benefit a large chunk of poor and middle class since the BPL population is already covered under Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana,” he said.
Farm loan subsidy: Sarma said farmers will continue to get 25 per cent subsidy on their short-term crop loans taken against Kisan Credit Cards up to a maximum limit of Rs 25,000 and will also continue to avail the scheme of zero interest on short-term crop loans up to Rs 2 lakh. “As was promised in Budget 2018-19, Finance Department has released funds amounting to Rs 257 crore to the Agriculture Department for the implementation of the Mukhyamantri Krishi Sah Sajuli Yojana through which we will transfer Rs 5,000 to 5 lakh farmers to encourage them to use scientific implements... these benefits will be credited into the farmers’ accounts by the end of this month. In the financial year 2019-20, we will cover 6 lakh farmers under the scheme,” he said.
Incentive scheme: The minister announced that the government will launch the Incentive Scheme for the Employment of Local Youth (I-SELY) scheme in 2019-20 under which incentive would be given to employers to recruit local youths. “We will give an incentive to the employers to the tune of Rs 10,000 per local youth employed on the job,” he said, announcing an initial allocation of Rs 100 crore.
SME loans: Sarma said that to incentivise the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the government will bring a scheme under which it will transfer 20 per cent of the principal amount, subject to a ceiling of Rs 50,000, for all the loans availed during the year 2019-20 under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) and other similar loans meant for SMEs.
Housing loan: The minister said the government will extend the Apun Ghar, the interest subvention scheme for housing loan for regular State government employees, to cover all those loans taken by them prior to the launch of the scheme, thereby allowing them to migrate to Apun Ghar scheme.
Sarma also announced a new scheme called Aapunar Apun Ghar under which the government will provide Rs 2.5 lakh subsidy for all citizens who want to avail home loans up to Rs 40 lakh against purchase of their first home. The scheme will be launched from April 1, 2019 and Rs 75 crore has been allocated for this.
Asom Darshan: He said the State government has decided to develop and publicise various places of tourist interest under a scheme called Asom Darshan which will have four components – annuity grant to devalayas, improving basic infrastructure of places of natural beauty and historical significance, improving key infrastructure in religious places, and improved connectivity for visitors. An amount of Rs 300 crore has been allocated for the first phase of Asom Darshan scheme that will cover 1,008 destinations.
State highways: The minister also announced Asom Mala as a flagship programme to build state highways and major district roads with quality at par with the national highways in addition to building big bridges over the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers to boost connectivity and reduce distances.
“We have a vision to construct 1,000 km of roads under Asom Mala over the next three years at a cost of Rs 5,000 crore and my plan is to spend Rs 500 crore, Rs 2,000 crore and Rs 2,500 crore respectively over the next three years..., he said, allocating Rs 500 crore for 2019-20.
RCC Bridges: Sarma said in 2019-20, the government has set a target to convert 400 timber bridges to RCC structures under the Mahabir Lachit Aru Chilarai Setu Nirman Asoni and an amount of Rs 430 crore has been allocated in Budget 2019-20 for this purpose.
Artistes’ grant: He said the government will provide a one-time grant of Rs 50,000 for mobile theatre artistes and technicians who have spent at least five years with the industry. The department of culture will implement the scheme and a sum of Rs 5 crore has been earmarked for the scheme in Budget 2019-20.
Shop on wheels: Sarma announced that the government will make available non-PDS essential commodities at the doorsteps of consumers through eco-friendly e-rickshaws operated by village entrepreneurs. “The process of selection of these entrepreneurs is under way and the Government of Assam will soon launch the Amar Dukan on Wheels scheme,” he added.