Jubilant Congress activists in Nagaon take out a procession to celebrate budget allocation for the northeastern states announced by finance minister P. Chidambaram on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Feb. 29: The northeastern region will have Rs 2,082 crore more than the last fiscal in this budget, a rise of about 14 per cent though indebted farmers in the region may not be celebrating.
The total budget allocation for northeastern region, spread over different ministries/departments, will increase from Rs 14,365 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 16,447 crore in 2008-09, finance minister P. Chidambaram said.
The Opposition members, however, complained that the farmers in the region who usually take loans from friends and moneylenders would not get any reprieve in this farmer-friendly budget.
“Farmers who suffered losses because of the floods in Assam also have no reprieve as there are no schemes for them. There is nothing in the budget to prevent floods in the state, as the Brahmaputra Board was not given anything,” said Asom Gana Parishad MP Arun Kumar Sharma. Last year, farmers from Assam suffered because of drought instead of floods.
Chidambaram also gave Rs 1,445 crore to the ministry of development of northeastern region (DoNER).
He said the northeastern region, especially Arunachal Pradesh and the border areas in the region, faced “special problems” that could not be tackled in the usual course or through normal schemes.
The government had proposed to identify the urgent needs of these areas and addressed them through a special mechanism.
A sum of Rs 500 crore in a fund dedicated for this purpose had been set aside in the budget “in order to jumpstart the process”, Chiadambaram said.
The finance minister’s move reflects the changing stance of the government, especially towards development along the Sino-Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh, where China has long been engaged in constructing roads, giving it a strategic edge.
Northeast expert B.G. Verghese said the budget reflected a pace consistent with what was going on over the past year on giving thrust to development in the region from bottom upwards till it blended with the Look East policy.
“I think the Northeast is poised for development in the next five years,” he said.
The region continues to get fringe benefits from institutions. As the Centre began to rejuvenate the tea industry last year, it is reflected in the budget too.
The Tea Research Association’s Tocklai experimental station at Jorhat in Assam will celebrate its centenary in 2010. The station is in the process of upgrading its facilities and expanding its activities to cover other northeastern states, North Bengal and Darjeeling.
“I propose to make a special centenary grant of Rs 20 crore to the Tea Research Association,” Chidambaram said.
Substantial benefits will accrue to the region as the finance minister has proposed enhanced subsidy per unit in respect of new houses sanctioned after April 1 from Rs 27,500 to Rs 38,500 in hill/difficult areas under the Indira Awas Yojana, a component of the Bharat Nirman Yojana.
A tab on unaccountable state governments in the region would be achieved through the Central Plan Schemes Monitoring System that will be implemented by the Planning Commission. It will help the Centre keep tabs on the centrally sponsored schemes in the country in general.