THE ASSAM BUDGET 2020-21: PROMISES AND HOPE

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Posted in Assam, Featured

Kishor Kumar Kalita

On March 6 of this year, Finance Minister of Assam, Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma presented the Budget for Assam for the financial year 2020-21 in the Legislative Assembly, where he made some major announcements covering a number of subjects, including the Bodo Accord, creation of Autonomous Councils for the Koch Rajbongshi, Moran and Mattak communities, special packages for some indigenous communities, besides promotion of Assamese language and making annual patta land transferable, among other things.

In his Budget speech, Sarma said that the memorandum of settlement signed on January 27 among all factions of the NDFB, ABSU, UBPO, Government of India and Government of Assam is expected to bring permanent peace to the region and end militancy. The Budget also proposed to establish a Bodo Kachari Welfare Council for focusing development of Bodo villages outside BTR on the lines of other existing Councils for Plains Tribes. The finance minister also said that in 2020- 21 the government would create an Autonomous Council for the Koch Rajbongshi community residing in the undivided Goalpara district, excluding BTR and Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council areas. The council will be named as ‘Kamatapur Autonomous Council’. “Similarly, two new autonomous councils for Moran and Mattak communities shall also be created in the near future. Our government has decided to provide a fund of Rs 500 crore as special packages for Moran, Mattak, Chutia and Ahom communities at Rs 125 crore for each of the communities for preservation of ancient historical monuments, promotion and preservation of their indigenous culture and infrastructure development. The necessary budgetary provision has been made in this regard under the WPT&BC Department,” said Sarma.

The Gross State Domestic Product of Assam for 2020-21 has been projected at current prices at Rs 4,08,627 crore. This is a 12.4% increase over the revised estimate for 2019-20. The total expenditure for 2020-21 has been estimated at Rs 1,03,762 crore, a 13.3% decrease from the revised estimate of 2019-20 (Rs 1,19,716 crore). In 2019-20, total expenditure is estimated to increase by 20.4% (Rs 20,297 crore from the budget estimate for that year. The total receipts (excluding borrowings) for 2020-21 has been estimated Rs 92,231 crore, which was a decrease of 2% as compared to the revised estimate of 2019-20. In 2019-20, total receipts (excluding borrowings) were estimated to increase by Rs 9,880 crore (11.7%) from the budget estimate for that year. Revenue surplus for 2020-21 has been targeted at Rs 9,154 crore, or 2.24% of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). Similarly Fiscal deficit has been targeted at Rs 9,383 crore (2.3% of GSDP). In 2019-20, the fiscal deficit was estimated to be Rs 21,531 crore (5.92% of GSDP). In 2020-21, the sectors of Rural Development (45%), Agriculture (27%), Irrigation and flood control (25%), and Police (20%) saw the highest decrease in allocations over the revised estimate of the previous year.

This budget has also targeted to create a number of beneficiaries by allocating direct cash transfer to a section of the people. The finance minister has announced that around 27 lakh families across the state will receive in their respective account Rs 830 per month (Rs 400 for medicines and Rs 430 for vegetables and fruits) as income support through direct benefit transfer mode. Rs 2,800 crore has been allocated for this purpose. Free rice would be provided to all beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act, as part of the Anna Yojana initiative. Rs 472 crore has been allocated for this initiative for the year 2020-21. All households with monthly electricity consumption below 30 units would be provided free electricity. Under the entrepreneurial sector, the budget has assured to include two lakh youth of the state under the revised Swami Vivekananda Youth Empowerment Yojana to encourage them to form entrepreneurial groups. Seed capital of Rs 50,000 would be provided to each member of such groups to initiate entrepreneurial activities. Rs 1,000 crore has been allocated for this purpose. Entrepreneurship would be introduced as a curriculum subject from Class 11 onwards, covering all students enrolled in three-year degree courses. The finance minister also came with a plausible declaration that the state government would acquire additional shareholdings in the Numaligarh Refinery Ltd to increase its stake from 12.35% currently to 26%. Rs 1,500 crore has been allocated for this investment.

Apart from these budgetary policies, the minister also announced that his government would come up with a new policy for the Promotion of Assamese language. He said that for transforming this assurance into reality the government would bring a legislation to make Assamese compulsory subject in all English and other medium schools up to Class X.

For making annual patta land transferable Dr. Sarma said that the government has observed that a large number of indigenous people have annual patta under their possession since generations. Mentioning the new land policy, he mentioned before the house that in the near future the Assam government would not issue any new annual patta issue. But to help the indigenous people of the state the Revenue and Disaster Management Department would bring certain legal changes so that these people could easily make their annual patta land transferable. Referring about his previous commitment to create a Development Corporation for the indigenous Muslims of Assam he said in the house- “Necessary steps for creation of the Development Corporation have now been initiated. As promised, we will provide Rs 100 crore in a phased manner once the corporation comes into existence. Our government has also initiated the socio- economic census of these communities on a war footing so that political, social and economic dvelopment of these disadvantaged communities can be undertaken. This will also solve the problem of ‘identity’ that the Assamese Muslim community has faced since a long time,”.

Criticizing the budget, a good numbers of economists of the state have commented that when the State’s economy has been affected by a gradual slowdown, a visionary approach with thrust on long-term infrastructure development and employment generation was a dire need but the Budget was sorely lacking in those critical aspects.Unfortunately,this budget has failed to provide any new avenue for lakhs of unemployed citizen of the state and has casually addressed the issue with some short term beneficial programmes.

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