GUWAHATI, Feb 1: Major Opposition parties of the State today said that the Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has nothing special on offer for Assam and added that the announcements regarding a scheme for the tea workers and new national highway works in the State have been made with an eye on the forthcoming Assam Assembly elections.
The ruling BJP, however, termed the Union Budget a people-centric one and said that the Central government has put special focus on Assam.
Leader of the State Congress Legislature Party Debabrata Saikia termed the Union Budget a ‘hollow Budget’.
“It is an election-oriented Budget and announcements have been made targeting election-bound states like Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The BJP government has announced a Rs 1,000-crore package for tea garden workers. But the Modi government is expert in announcements but fails in implementation. For example, the BJP government had earlier announced a minimum wage for tea garden workers at Rs 351 per day, but it has not yet been implemented. Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for six communities and revival of the two paper mills remained promises on paper only,” Saikia said.
He alleged that in recent years the NDA government has cut down Central funding to the State and scrapped the 90:10 funding pattern.
“When we talk about development of tea garden areas it must be remembered that there are approximately 850 registered tea gardens in Assam and each of them has a minimum of 20 labour lines (streets). This means there are on an average 8,000 to 12,000 labour lines in the tea garden areas. In the last five years the BJP government has developed only about 650 labour lines, i.e., in a year only 130 labour lines. If they continue their so-called development in this manner then this government will need about 100 years to develop around 10,000 labour lines. The Budget has announced Rs 1,000 crore for tea garden workers but till now many primary schools in tea garden areas are under garden management and the government has not taken any step to provincialise them. Similarly, in 52 per cent of company-owned gardens there are no medical officers,” Saikia said.
AIUDF president Badruddin Ajmal said that the Union Budget has failed to address the major issues of the State.
“Allocation for the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) has been cut. The allocation for the DoNER ministry in the previous Budget was Rs 3,048 crore, but this time it has been reduced to only Rs 2,658 crore. There is no mention of any financial package for the flood-affected people of Assam. Besides, the Budget is silent on some other pertinent points, including flood control and the Finance Minister also failed to announce funds for revival of the Cachar and Nagaon paper mills. The Finance Minister also failed to announce anything for industrial development in the North East and no funds have been sanctioned for strengthening railway connectivity in Assam,” he said.
He added, “Though it is an election-oriented announcement, still we appreciate that the Finance Minister has announced projects worth Rs 34,000 crore for national highway works in the State in the coming three years. At the same time, though it is too little an amount, still we appreciate that Rs 1,000 crore has been announced for the welfare of tea workers, especially women and their children, in Assam and West Bengal. We hope it will be implemented and not turn out to be just a mere announcement.”
Communist Party of India (Marxist) Assam State secretary Deben Bhattacharya said there is nothing new with regard to addressing the basic problems of the State in the Union Budget.
“There is no mention of the flood and erosion problem of Assam or of revival of the paper mills. The Rs 1,000 crore announced for tea workers is too small an amount considering the number of people who reside in the tea garden areas. They are talking about national highways, but people of Assam are now even scared of travelling on highways due to high rates at toll plazas. This Budget has nothing for the common people of Assam,” said Bhattacharya.
Communist Party of India (CPI) Assam unit secretary Munin Mahanta echoed a similar opinion. “There is nothing for Assam. There is not even a single word regarding development of basic infrastructure in the State, nothing about reviving the two paper mills, nothing about industrial or agricultural development in Assam. This Budget is anti-people, anti-working class and anti-Assam. The announcement regarding Rs 1,000 crore for the welfare of tea workers, especially women and their children, in Assam and West Bengal is purely election-oriented as both states are heading for Assembly polls,” Mahanta said.
Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) general secretary Jagadish Bhuyan said that the Union Budget lacks a welfare-centric approach and has nothing specific for Assam.
Aanchalik Gana Marcha (AGM) working president Manjit Mahanta said the Union Budget has opened the door to sell off the country’s assets and public sector units.
On the other hand, the BJP termed the Union Budget a ‘people-centric’ document.
“The Budget reflects the wishes and aspirations of all sections of society. The income tax relief provided to people above the age of 75 years is noteworthy. The announcement regarding works of more than Rs 34,000 crore covering 1,300 km of national highways in Assam in the coming three years reflects the commitment of our government towards infrastructure development. Similarly, the Rs 1,000-crore scheme for the welfare of tea workers, especially women and their children, in Assam and West Bengal, is an important initiative,” State BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass said.