Opposition slams ‘leak’ of 2020-21 budget
The 2020-21 budget was allegedly uploaded on the state finance department’s website on Friday almost two hours before Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tabled it in the Assembly. The incident prompted the Opposition to stage a walkout.
However, minutes later the budget was found to be “unavailable” on the website after the news of the alleged leak spread.
Though the state denied the allegation, the Opposition walked out of the House, alleging there was nothing new to be heard. Sarma, while presenting the budget at 2pm, said, “Whatever was found to be circulated was part of the budget speech. The cabinet approved the tax proposals of the budget a few minutes ago.”
Assam parliamentary affairs minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said he was unaware of any such “leakage”.
Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia sought permission from the Speaker to bring a privilege motion to discuss the alleged leakage, but it was not granted. Immediately, the Congress MLAs walked out of the House in protest.
Saikia said, “The government’s biggest achievement was the leakage of the budget hours before it was tabled in the House. The state is engaged in a damage-control exercise but the question is how much confidence can people repose in a government that cannot protect the secrecy of such an important document.”
He added that the Opposition was surprised that the government did not even want to set up an inquiry. “When the finance minister started to read the budget, we found that it was the exact same document which was leaked. There is no point to listen to it when the government does not even regret about its leakage,” Saikia said.
It was unfortunate that chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was present in the House, did not find the issue serious.
Saikia said, “On behalf of the Assam Congress Legislature Party, I demand an inquiry by an all-party House committee into the budget’s leak. The committee should be empowered to recommend measures against those responsible for the lapse.”
Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said, “In my 15-year tenure, not even a single government document was found to be leaked. Such an incident is unprecedented in the country’s history. It’s a shame and a mockery of the House.”