GUWAHATI, March 12 - The State Budget is not a document that seeks to create a system based on entitlements and it instead aims to empower the common people, help to increase the purchasing power of the masses and expand revenue generation, Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said today.
Replying to the general discussion on the budget in the Assembly, Sarma said GSDP growth, tax collection and implementation of social welfare schemes have been much better during the last four years of the BJP rule compared to what was achieved in the previous 15 years under the Congress party�s dispensation.
Sarma said the government has successfully implemented more than 80 per cent of the schemes announced in annual budgets since 2016-17.
He said the revenue (tax and non-tax) growth has jumped to over 35 per cent now compared to a mere 1.39 per cent in 2014-15 and three per cent in 2015-16, while the average expenditure of the government on the annual basis has grown to over Rs 65,000 crore during the last four years as compared to only Rs 36,000 crore during the 2011-16 period.
�The Opposition is alleging that we are trying to create a class of beneficiaries through our budget announcements. But who are people who are benefiting from our schemes? ...It is the common people. We have now announced that we will provide free textbooks to students up to postgraduate level. Why are you (Opposition) describing students as �beneficiaries�? Can we insult needy people like students, old women, widows, tea garden workers, and kidney and cancer patients by referring to them as �beneficiaries�? ...Congress distributed blankets and mosquito nets. Our policy is different. We seek to empower the masses. We seek to transfer money directly to their accounts through direct benefit transfer (DBT) so that the people themselves can decide and choose what they want to purchase. We are trying to increase the purchasing power of those who are at the bottom of society,� he said.
The Finance Minister added that DBT has also helped in expanding the tax revenue and ensuring that the money does not go out of the State and instead benefit local retailers, wholesalers and distributors, while at the same time also allowing the beneficiaries the right to choose.
Sarma said that while the Congress talks about providing tablets to students, which will cost a maximum of Rs 7,000 a per unit, the BJP-led government is offering much more by ensuring free admission, free mess facilities and free textbooks.
He said the government�s Orunodoi scheme, which has provision to give Rs 10,000 to 27 lakh poor households through DBT, is a win-win for everybody. �From next year all beneficiary schemes will be subsumed under it,� Sarma said, adding that departments will then be able to focus on governance and infrastructure building.
�Why not put money in the account of the poor people? They can decide what to buy. Why have middlemen and contractors,� he added.
Sarma said the religious minorities are the biggest beneficiaries of the State government�s social welfare incentives. �The entire basket of packages is going to the minorities and yet we are termed as anti-minority,� he said.
He claimed that the State-run healthcare facilities in Assam are much better in comparison to those run by the Delhi government. Sarma said the �Mohalla Clinic� system of Delhi is no match for the public health centres which exist at the local level in Assam. He also called upon the House to conduct a case study comparing the Mohalla Clinics of Delhi and the Assam government�s healthcare facilities at the local level.