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Assam steps into pre-poll gear
Budget focus on schemes

Guwahati, Aug. 11: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi emphasised speedy and time-bound implementation of development schemes before the 2016 Assembly polls while presenting a Rs 1,385.77-crore deficit budget in the House today.

Gogoi’s budget estimate for the 2014-15 fiscal shows a total receipt of Rs 3,86,727.33 crore and total expenditure of Rs 3,88,113.10 crore. As the state’s annual plan outlay is yet to be finalised, the budget puts the plan size tentatively at Rs 21,811.65 crore.

Ostensibly with an eye on the 2016 Assembly polls, the chief minister, in his budget speech, said, “Before completion of the present term of the state government, for which less than two years are left, I would like to see that all our announcements are brought to their logical conclusions, except those schemes which could not be implemented due to various problems, including some inherent constraints impeding their implementation.”

Gogoi said his government had announced and implemented several innovative and important schemes over the past 13 years for the socio-economic development of the state. “Many of these schemes have been completed, some are under implementation, but there are some schemes which could not be started for various reasons,” he said.

He promised that the next two years would be “the years of consolidation of the fruits of development” and maximum emphasis would be laid on timely completion of schemes announced earlier.

Gogoi’s budget speech gives ample indications that the coming months would see urgent sanctioning and implementing of schemes which have been hanging fire because of bureaucratic red-tapism, or any other reason, so that the ruling party can benefit from them in the Assembly polls.

The chief minister said to increase the pace and ensure timely sanction and implementation of schemes and proper utilisation of funds, the finance department had delegated full power of sanction up to Rs 10 crore to the administrative departments last year. “Therefore, the administrative departments can sanction about 90 per cent of their plan proposals themselves,” he added. This would be particularly required since all central sector funding will be routed through the state budget from this year.

An Assembly employee carries budget papers on Monday. Picture by UB Photos

Gogoi said independent evaluation by a third party would be introduced in major departments to ensure proper utilisation of funds.

“I am aware of the fact that the people of Assam, having returned us for the third successive term to this House with a resounding victory, expect a lot from us,” he said.

The new schemes announced in the budget include 20 power tillers to be provided to farmers in every Assembly constituency at subsidised rates, construction of 1,000km all-weather roads and 500 new RCC bridges, essential medicines to be made available free of cost to the poor in government hospitals, special scheme for preservation of ancient monuments and ponds in Sivasagar district and other places, Rs 10 lakh for construction of Asam Sahitya Sabha Bhawan in Kohima and a comprehensive programme for revival and rejuvenation of the tea industry in collaboration with the Union government.

To increase the revenue, the chief minister proposed to levy entry tax on certain items coming from neighbouring countries which were outside the tax net so far. “It would also safeguard local trade and industry,” he said. “We propose to construct a state-of-the-art composite checkgate at Boxirhat for which financial sanction has already been accorded and we propose to expedite the work so that its functioning can be started at the earliest,” Gogoi added.

On Guwahati’s development, the chief minister said work had started on feasibility study and preparation of a detailed project report for the metro rail project in the city. A Rs 1,700-crore sewerage project, streetlights for all major roads and bylanes, affordable houses for 10,000 urban poor, among others, have also been proposed. “Under-bridges have been proposed to be constructed at five railway level crossings in the city between Kamakhya and Guwahati railway stations to ease traffic congestion,” Gogoi said.

Setting up of a centre for international studies at Gauhati University and a cyber tower to provide ready-to-operate space to the industries under one roof in the city also found mention in the budget.