News Today – Budget: First woman finance minister sets the ball rolling for a new Assam

by Guwahati_City

News Today | Today Breaking News – By

As a woman rose to present the state’s budget, for the first time in the history of Assam, her first words were “I am presenting this budget with a mother’s compassion”. Amidst the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, when states across India are being forced to deal with economic and humanitarian crises, a good budget can do a lot to boost public morale and bring back hope. With not a single penny of new taxes levied and a perfect balance of measures to spur both investment and consumption-led growth in the state, Ajanta Neog, the first ever woman finance minister of Assam seems to have got it right. Many of the election manifesto promises found a place in the budget ranging from a flood free Assam, micro finance loan waiver and Arunodoy, providing employment of 100,000 youths across 48 departments within a year. Giving a new lease of life to Assam’s spectacular fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, the finance minister also proposed setting up five new medical colleges and 1,000 new hospitals in the state to boost the health infrastructure. The budget, with several other thoughtfully calibrated steps, seems to have set the ball rolling for a “New Assam”.

A renewed push to economy

In line with Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s vision of making Assam ‘self-reliant’, the budget proposed a slew of steps to boost growth in the primary sector by setting up a world class agricultural commission to study and suggest measures for achieving self-sufficiency in agriculture, dairy and live-stock production and building 10,000 village community tanks to boost the fisheries sector. The sector which constitutes the largest share of state’s GSDP (18.3%) has one of the lowest growth rates (6.2%).

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To boost the secondary sector of manufactured finished goods, the budget proposed direct procurement of handloom items from weavers through ARTFED and AGMC and leveraging collaboration with e-commerce startups which will benefit 123,000 weavers across the state. The state has also decided to provide a one-time grant of Rs 10,000 rupees to small traders and artisans affected by Covid-19 to get them back on their feet again.

An investment of Rs 5,556 crore towards the Asom Mala project, which will further develop the road infrastructure in the state, is also a step in the right direction. However, the services sector, which has supposedly been impacted the most by the Covid-19 pandemic surprisingly did not find any significant mention in the budget.

Welfare measures

Most of the expenditure in the budget is aimed at providing support to the neediest strata of the society. Be it increasing the monthly assistance under Arunodoy from Rs 830 to Rs 10,00 rupees per month or providing relief to 2.6 million women micro-finance borrowers in the state or guaranteeing food security for all, especially the urban poor’s, the budget had provisions for all.

The humanitarian aspect of the government was also visible when the budget stated that CM’s Widow Support Scheme and Sishu Seva Scheme will continue to support widows and orphans who lost their earning members and parents, respectively, due to Covid-19 pandemic. Under the schemes, widows receive a one-time grant of Rs 2.5 lakh and orphans receive a monthly stipend of Rs 3,500 per month, respectively.

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Social development

To bridge the digital divide in primary education created by the Covid-19 pandemic, Assam government has earmarked around Rs 800 crore to provide smart phones and free internet to 800,000 school going students. The budget also includes the setting up of 1,000 model anganwadi centers and electrification of the existing 48,805 anganwadi centers. The budget has also taken steps towards envisaging a flood-free Assam, which has been a perennial issue for the state from time immemorial. A dedicated Rs 1,000 crore for embankments and roads along the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers will go a long way in helping a large chunk of population across the state which is forced to deal with floods every year.


Himanta Biswa Sarma has repeatedly underlined his vision of making Assam one of the the top five states in the country ever since he took charge as the chief minister of the state. He categorically emphasised on making Assam as competitive as Odisha and Kerala which have similar population compared to Assam, but are significantly ahead in terms of per capita GSDP. The first budget presented since the new government took charge reflects his vision. This is a budget which tries to include all the strata of society and aims for inclusive overall development. The first budget of the new government, presented by a woman finance minister for the first time, could arguably be one of the state’s most prudent budgets in recent times.

(Dr Deb is an empirical economist and has been a core member of the Assam BJP’s Election Manifesto and Data Committee. Views expressed are personal.)

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