GUWAHATI, Feb 7 - Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, in the budget for the year 2017-18, announced a host of new schemes and asserted that the goal of the government is to create an Assam free from foreigners, corruption, extremism and pollution.
He admitted that implementation of the schemes would be a big challenge but �we will make sincere efforts involving everyone in the true spirit of �Team Assam� so that the fruits of the programmes announced in the budget reach the common people. The endeavour of the government is to serve the 3.25 crore people of the State and to mitigate their plight to take them to newer heights of development.�
In his budget speech, Sarma proposed to transform agar as �green gold� for the State�s economy and said that the Environment and Forest Department would be introducing a Bill soon so that the cultivation, harvesting and processing of agar and its byproducts are encouraged.
For the first time the Plan and Non-Plan heads have been merged and the government has decided to rename the Planning and Development Department as the Department for Development and Transformation of Assam.
The minister announced that the government will implement the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission with effect from April 1, 2016, and revealed that an amount of Rs 2,200 crore would be required to pay the arrears to its employees. He announced a new housing loan scheme at low interest rate for the State Government employees. To give a boost to the khadi industries, a provision has been made in the budget to provide Rs 1,000 to every employee as reimbursement for buying khadi apparels every year. The government has also proposed to abolish retention procedure for almost all posts to ensure regular payment of salaries to all categories of employees.
He announced 18 key initiatives under �Ashtadash Mukutar Unayonee Maala�. The schemes under the project include provision of credit support to one lakh youths for taking up income generating enterprises, financial support to women�s self-help groups, creation of gene bank for indigenous fish, providing eggs twice a week to 42.61 lakh children covered under the Mid-Day Meal scheme at a cost of Rs 130 crore.
He proposed to allocate special grant amounting to Rs 667 crore for infrastructure development of colleges and universities to be spent over a period of three to four years. In this regard, he listed names of 31 professional colleges and universities to be included in the scheme. Under the scheme, Rs 100 crore each would be provided to three medical colleges of the State and these colleges will get Rs 30 crore each in the coming financial year.
The Finance Minister proposed to start eight women�s colleges in the minority dominated areas, three government degree colleges, three polytechnics, 20 BEd colleges, 33 skill development centres, one dairy science college at Sorbhog, one agro forestry and biodiversity college in Kukilabari, a cultural university in Majuli, a university of veterinary and life science by carving out a separate institute from the Assam Agricultural University, and three new universities in Hojai, North Lakhimpur and Barpeta districts.
He also proposed launching of the Big Cities Amenities Development Fund of Rs 1,200 crore to be spent on major infrastructure projects. The cities to be covered under the scheme are Silchar, Tinsukia, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Nagaon and Tezpur. Each city will be allocated Rs 200 crore. Guwahati will continue to get priority as State capital and gateway to Northeast India, he added.
The government has also proposed an ambitious mission to increase muga silk production by 10 times by 2026. An amount of Rs 100 crore has been allocated for this purpose.
To encourage farmers to take loans, the government proposed to introduce zero interest crop loans up to Rs 1 lakh and financial incentives have also been announced for farmers using Kisan Credit Cards. He proposed installation of 39,000 shallow tube wells in 2017-18 and a scheme has been announced to irrigate 81,188 hectares of land.
Giving a thrust to road communication, the government has proposed to convert 1,000 timber bridges into permanent RCC bridges in the coming financial year with a cost of Rs 100 crore. Sarma also proposed to initiate construction of 10 railway overbridges.
To encourage the tea garden workers to accept their salaries through bank accounts, the government proposed to pay Rs 5,000 to each of the tea garden workers in his or her bank account. Initially, Rs 2,500 will be paid to each worker, who has opened bank accounts and subsequently the balance amount will be paid to them if the wages are received through the bank accounts continuously for six months. An amount of Rs 287 crore has been earmarked in the budget for the purpose. To bring down the high maternal and infant mortality rates among the tea garden workers, the government proposed to pay Rs 12,000 to each pregnant woman of the gardens.
The government has already launched the �Housing for All� scheme in eight places � Guwahati, Nagaon, Silchar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Jorhat, Kokrajhar and Dhubri and an amount of Rs 100 crore has been proposed.
The government proposed to set up a �Pravasi Asomiya Department� so that the non-resident Assamese can contribute to the trade, business and different walks of life.
An amount of Rs 125 crore has been allocated in the budget for launching a special mission to improving police-public relation and 62 police stations will be brought under the scheme in the coming financial year. Altogether 8,993 police personnel will be appointed in the police force, while two new India Reserve Battalions will be raised. The Police Training College at Dergaon will be upgraded as the Assam Police Academy at par with global standards. An amount of Rs 5 crore will be provided for establishment of traffic signals in the urban centres of the State. A Police Memorial will be set up in Guwahati. He also announced entrepreneurship and skill development schemes for 16,000 surrendered militants, while an amount of Rs 2 crore has been earmarked for the Forensic Science Laboratory.
Sarma proposed a financial outlay of Rs 50 lakh for land capability mapping in the State with the assistance of the North Eastern Space Application Centre, while another amount of Rs 50 lakh has been provided for protection of riverine land in Majuli. An amount of Rs 40 crore has been provided for mitigation of flash flood in Guwahati.
As many 116 model hospitals are proposed to be set up across the State, of which construction of 79 have already been completed. Very soon Amrit Pharmacies will be set up at all medical colleges and district hospitals to make medicines available at affordable prices. The Cancer Hospital at GMCH is likely to be declared as the State Cancer Institute and is likely to receive a sum of Rs 108 crore from the Centre.
Sarma proposed to start a new department of sports medicine in the Guwahati Medical College and said that with the functioning of the new medical colleges the target of producing 1,200 doctors annually will be realised. He also proposed to increase the reservation of OBC candidates in MBBS and other courses from 15 per cent to 29 per cent.
Legislation would be brought in the State Assembly to ensure that all students of the State are taught one local language by all schools up to class VIII, he added.
He also proposed to provide two-wheelers to top thousand girl students, who pass Higher Secondary examination 2017 and an amount of Rs 5 crore has been allocated for the purpose, while he also proposed financial support of Rs 50 lakh each for infrastructure development of deserving secondary schools which are more than 100 years old.
He also announced increase of OBC reservation in higher educational institutions to 29 per cent.
To reduce road accidents and fatalities, a State Road Safety Policy will be formulated and a State Road Safety Authority will be set up. The government will introduce modernised vessels and river taxis while two more ISBTs will be set up in Tezpur and Kokrajhar and a mini ISBT will be set up at Khanapara.
The government has also proposed to set up 23 district science centres, while a mega science project is being implemented at Sonapur. Six more new planetariums have been planned to be set up in Majuli, Kaliabor, Amingaon, Bongaigaon, Diphu and Silchar.
An amount of Rs 15 crore has been earmarked in the budget for a ropeway project from Kamakhya railway station to Kamakhya temple, while an amount of Rs 10 crore has been earmarked for setting up a three-star category resort in Majuli.
The Finance Minister proposed to set up one State School of Drama in the line of the National School of Drama and an amount of Rs 2 crore has been allocated for starting the work. Another amount of Rs 2 crore has been allocated for a new art auditorium in the Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra.
He also announced creation of Sahodar Samannay Kshetra to display tribal items, symbols of cultures and traditions of various communities.