Staff Reporter/SPL CORRESPONDENT
GUWAHATI/NEW DELHI, March 12 - Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal hailed the State Budget 2018-19 presented by Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in the Legislative Assembly today and termed it a ‘people-welfare budget’ aimed at establishing social equanimity and all-round development of the State.Sharing his budgetary reaction, Sonowal said that true to the doctrine of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikash’ the State budget is aimed at development of all sections of the people, especially by empowering specially-able persons, farmers, women and youths. He said the budget reflects provisions of fulfilment of aims and aspirations of all sections of the people of the society including farmers, villagers, youths, senior citizens, women, as well as children.
“For empowerment of minority women, though the government has already announced a series of schemes, provision of Rs 327 crore for the year 2018-19 will help the government in its bid for inclusive development,” said the Chief Minister. Reiterating his government’s commitment to up its ante against corruption, Sonowal hailed the budget provision of 15 per cent allowance for the police in charge of cracking down on corruption and its inquiry.
“Adequate budgetary provision, along with the already sanctioned Rs 1 crore for Journalist Family Benefit Fund is another notable provision of the budget. The promise of constructing ‘Ekata Bhawan’ at the Dhola-Samannaya Khetra in Tinsukia district in recognition to the co-existence and contribution of each and every community in making a greater Assamese society and the provision of Rs 155.83 crore is another notable aspect of this budget,” he said.
He added, “Earmarking of Rs 16.5 crore for the State Action Plan of Per Drop More Crop to rationalise various irrigation facilities is another budget highlight which would revolutionise agriculture along with developing socio-economic conditions of the farmers of the State. Besides, the provision of budgetary allocation for two ‘adarsha villages’ for every constituency would take the fruits of good governance to even the remotest part.”
State BJP chief hails budget: State BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass has welcomed the State budget and termed it “all-embracing” and said the document covers all aspects.
“It will bring benefit to all and will help in growth of the State in the days to come. The budget has laid special focus on youths, farmers, women and specially-able sections,” Dass said.
Uninspiring, says Cong: The Congress today termed the budget ‘uninspiring’ and said that it failed to reflect the needs of the State and its populace.
“There is little in the budget that can enthuse the masses. A few new schemes have been announced, but the experiences from implementation in the last budget have been pathetic,” former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said. Gogoi added that despite tall claims by the government, the ‘progress’ was not getting reflected in the people’s living conditions.
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and Congress legislator Debabrata Saikia, while terming the budget an ordinary one that was election-centric, said that many of the earlier schemes had been dropped which was not a positive sign.
“Many old schemes have been dropped which will affect the people adversely. We want these schemes to continue. It is apparently a budget with an eye on the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls,” he said.
Saikia added that the much-touted incentives for the tea industry were too meagre to talk about. “The steps for financial inclusion of the tea garden community are not sincere. We do not have even a hundred ATMs in the tea gardens of the State. That’s pathetic. And the government wants to give mobile handsets to the sardars. That’s nothing more than a gimmick. The Rs 250 old-age pension is ridiculous,” he said.
State Congress president and Rajya Sabha Member Ripun Borah said State Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has presented a bogus budget to woo the people of the State with false promises ahead of the panchayat polls.
Reacting to the State Budget, Borah alleged that the claim about payment of Central tax to Assam made in the budget is not based on facts because post-GST, the Centre has reduced Assam’s share. He charged that the schemes mentioned in the budget are to hoodwink the people as the State government has no intention of implementing them. He alleged that the attempt to privatise the schools is a ploy to saffronise education in Assam.
Even the promises made in last year’s budget were not fulfilled, Borah alleged, adding that Himanta Biswa Sarma has made false promises in the budget. Charging that the Government of Assam has been exposed, Borah said the Sonowal government is silent on the fate of the dredging project.
Himanta Biswa Sarma had last year promised to allot Rs 30 crore to each Assembly constituency, but not a single Rupee has gone to the constituency. Again this year, he has promised Rs 10 crore per constituency, Borah charged.
He alleged that the State government is yet to contribute its share towards old-age pension scheme. The Centre contributes Rs 250 towards the scheme, while the State’s share is Rs 50. But the State government has not been able to contribute its share till now, he said.
State’s pressing problems ignored, says AIUDF: Aminul Islam of the AIUDF said the budget simply chose to ignore the most pressing problems of the State – be it river erosion, unemployment, infrastructure development, or education and health. “The budget does not at all reflect the reality of the State. All the burning issues are being ignored. A few new schemes have been announced, but the poor track record of implementation does not inspire much confidence,” he said.
Islam added that the budget is trying to make an emotional connect with the masses.
Carbon copy of last year’s budget, says KMSS: The KMSS said that the budget has little in terms of a long-term vision for all-round progress of the State and that it is a carbon copy of last year’s budget. It added that the budget has targeted a few segments of the people for creating a vote bank.