I spent quite some time going through the budget speech by the Finance Minister present in http://assamassembly.gov.in/budget-speech-2018-19-english.pdf. No doubt the preparation of a state budget which can meet people’s expectation is a daunting task. To criticize and find faults is easy. Moreover the government reached out to all citizens seeking suggestions through newspaper ads. I have not heard much about public response but I presume there were many suggestions.
But I am not sure if it is indeed a growth oriented or pro people budget.
Tea gardens and tea Industry
The eighteen flagship programs or the “Astadash Mukutar Unnoyonee Mela”are nothing new and could be treated as regular developmental activities. The Finance Minister rightly puts in his speech that the nation mostly associates the image of Assam with tea. Tea appears to be a primary focus in the budget mostly by way of welfare programs for tea garden workers. The budget speech refers to “fluctuating fortunes of the Tea Industry” but no action plan found in the budget to face the challenge except some relief to small tea growers.
The budget provision to give smart phones to tea garden Sardars sounds funny. One such Sardar is a good friend of mine. When I called him up he said he was unaware of any such government scheme but he already has more than one smart phone.
Flood, erosion and dredging in the Brahmaputra river
The budget does not talk much about flood, erosion and dredging. Flood and erosion are the two most major threats to the state. Dredging in Brahmaputra river was a pet project of the Chief Minister till recently .But the budget says that the government only “contemplates to start corrective dredging in Brahmaputra and Barak” and “proposes to purchase a dredger” that mean we are again going to be helpless in the next round of floods.
Hundreds of schools lack facilities
The Finance Minister in his budget speech says that through Gunotsav the government has discovered that hundreds of our schools lack basic facilities such as separate classrooms, provision of electricity etc. The dilapidated conditions of most of the government run schools agonize us. The very first agenda of the “Astadash Mukutar Unnoyonee Mela” is provision of additional classrooms, partition walls and electricity in elementary schools. I feel it could have been simply put as renovation of infrastructure of all government run schools. In one place I have read the plan of upgrading Ulubari HS School in Guwahati into model Integrated Academic Centre of Excellence. I am keen on observing the developments soon.
Tourism Department: Awesome Assam
In the budget speech the Finance Minister mentions that the government had initiated rigorous branding, international road shows etc to put Assam on the tourist map of the continent. But I wanted some insight about the role of the brand ambassador and the cost benefit analysis. I learnt that under home stay infrastructure development scheme “Amar Alohi”, 31 entrepreneurs have been selected. But 31 is not an encouraging number.
Monthly stipend for purchase of sanitary napkins
It is nice to learn about the government’s resolve to improve women’s health and safeguard her dignity. But I am not quite sure how will the government ensure utilisation of the stipend of Rs600/ per year for the intended purpose.
North East Foundation
The Finance Minister announces setting up of North East Foundation which will act as a think tank for the region and that the government of Assam will provide seed fund to the foundation. My apprehension is that it is going to be one more non functional entity, because we don’t lack any “think tanks”.
Thought provoking abbreviations
In the end I would like to thank the Finance Minister for some truly thought provoking abbreviations, in addition to the poems, verses and slokas.
ReSTART : Restructuring Systems and Technology for Augmentation of Resources for Transformed Assam
LEAP: Lead Externally Aided Projects
ACCSADP: Assam Citizen Centric Service Delivery Project.