GUWAHATI, July 10 � The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) while welcoming the emphasis given by the Finance Minister on connectivity of the North-east in the Budget, said that lack of proper connectivity and infrastructure was one of the primary reasons for the region�s underdevelopment.
�Both railways and highways have received substantial budgetary outlay in the Union Budget 2014-15. This is in addition to the 54 per cent hike provided for in the railway projects in the North-east in the Rail Budget. The CII expects the Railways to utilize this substantial fund to complete the 23 ongoing projects, especially the Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge and the Lumding-Badarpur-Silchar gauge conversion project,� Abhijit Barooah, co-chairman, CII North East Council said.
He added that this was a high-impact announcement that was expected to promote tourism, supply chain, logistics sector and create greater job opportunities. However, some provisions should have been kept for improving connectivity with neighbouring countries, he said.
�The emphasis on agriculture will also benefit the North-east. Several initiatives have been announced in the areas of rural infra corpus, agriculture infrastructure fund, enhancing warehouse capacity, increasing NABARD-RIDF fund, etc. Specific initiatives of Rs 100-crore outlay for organic farming and agriculture research centre for the North-east will benefit the agriculture sector which is the main economic activity in the region,� he said.
The promotion of commercial organic farming; and the announcement of constructing 15,000 kms of gas grid etc., were some other positives of the Budget, he said.
Sandipan Chakravortty, chairman, CII North East Council, said that the Budget had made the much-awaited attempt to create the enablers for growth and unlock the true potential of the region by harnessing local skills and assets of the region �by creating growth engines and complementing these by removing the constraints of connectivity that has compelled the region to be isolated from mainstream developments in the country.�
The FINER, meanwhile, observed that the Finance Minister had rightly identified Manipur as the sporting powerhouse of India in spite of poor infrastructure, and announced a Sports University in Manipur. �This would go a long way in empowerment of youth in the region and thereby change perception about the region,� it said.
The FINER has termed the Budget as a good step in the right direction. FINER chairman RS Joshi said that the stamp of change was clearly there in the Budget and that it, by and large, had expressed its intent to create an investment climate. Stressing on improving connectivity, Joshi said that the measures announced for enhancing rail and road linkage was a welcome announcement, especially for the North-east where connectivity had been a major constraint.
�The Budget has proposed major investments in improving rail and road connectivity in the North-east. The Finance Minister proposed an investment of Rs 1,000 crore for improving railway connectivity in the region.
In a post-Budget discussion organized by the trade body, Joshi, however, was sceptical of the fact that nothing was announced for the tea sector.
Speakers also unanimously hailed the decision to set up a sports university in Manipur. Former Chief Secretary of Assam, HN Das echoed similar sentiments stating that the Budget was probably an interim one and a preparation for next year�s Budget. He, however, stressed on proper utilization of funds for development to take place in the right manner.
Speakers further welcomed the allocation made in the field of organic farming. A section of members of trade body felt that the Finance Minister must have come with something on black money, while others were of the opinion that it would be unfair to expect a big bang budget from a Government which is not too old. The increase in tax exemption slab was also welcomed.
The Assam Chamber of Commerce welcomed the Budget, saying that the Budget would take care of the interests of diverse segments of the populace from the common man to the businessman.
�Developing the North-east on a priority basis seems to have got focus in this Budget, as reflected in the allocations for enhancing railway and road connectivity. Agriculture and sports, besides other areas, have been accorded importance in the Budget. We feel there are a lot in this Budget for the North-east,� ACC spokesperson Arup Kumar Deka said.